Although we’re just at the very beginning of the offseason, ESPN’s Dan Szymborski has kicked things into gear with an early look at the 2018 ZiPS projections. It’s fun! Treat it as mostly fun!
Although these numbers will change dramatically as the offseason goes on (ZiPS counts only players currently under contract (so free agents like Jake Arrieta, for one example, are left unaccounted for)), they can give you a nice place to start and a foundation upon which to evaluate future offseason moves.
But because the full projections are a part of ESPN’s premium content, I can’t share everything with you here today – you’ll have to look for yourself. What we can do, however, is take a closer look at some of the highlights and notable Cubs-bits, starting with the NL Central.
- Chicago Cubs: 87-75
- Milwaukee Brewers: 84-78
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 82-80
- St. Louis Cardinals: 80-82
- Cincinnati Reds: 79-83
According to ZiPS, the 2018 Cubs should claim the NL Central for the third consecutive season. And I don’t know how much you know about the team, but that would be the first time in franchise history they won the NL Central three years in a row. The last somewhat-similar accomplishment would be winning the National League pennant in 1906, 1907, and 1908, but that’s obviously a very different thing, given the era (and about a million other reasons).
In any case … 87 wins isn’t very high.
Now, to be fair, these projections do factor in regressions toward the mean and don’t account for any notable additions (of which the Cubs should have a couple), but other teams can get lucky and/or improve themselves, too. Consider that the Dodgers, for one example, are already projected for 96 wins and the Yankees, for another, are projected at 92.
So why are the Cubs projected to be so much worse?
Well, as Szymborski points out, losing Jake Arrieta will be a real loss for this Cubs team, and they’ll have to actually make something of this offseason if they hope to distance themselves from the NL Central crowd. After all, they may be projected to win the division, but they have just a 47.4% chance of doing so as of now, and those are the lowest odds among any projected first-place team in baseball.
NL West: Dodgers (92.0%)
NL East: Nationals (65.7%)
AL Central: Indians (62.2%),
AL West: Astros (78.4%)
Al East: Yankees (58.8%)
But again, absent any major injuries here in the offseason, I can’t imagine the Cubs 2018 projections falling below 90 wins when all is said and done. There’s just too much of an opportunity to add to this roster and too much of a reason to do so (given the relative mediocrity throughout the NL Central).
Clearly, this isn’t the most glowing review in baseball, but it’s far from the end of the world. There’s so much offseason to left, the Cubs will just have to make good use of it.