So, How Much Did Signing Yu Darvish Swing the Cubs' Projections? A *Lot*

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So, How Much Did Signing Yu Darvish Swing the Cubs’ Projections? A *Lot*

Chicago Cubs

When the Chicago Cubs signed Yu Darvish over the weekend (six years/$126M), we knew his impact would loom a bit larger than just another arm in the rotation, because his presence also improves the starting depth and the bullpen in a very real way.

It was only natural, then, to expect the Cubs’ playoff odds to shoot up a bit, as well. But I don’t think I expected to see a leap this dramatic:

Before the Cubs signed Yu Darvish, according to ZiPS, their chances of winning the NL Central were around 58.4% – solid, but unspectacular, especially compared to their odds around this time in 2016 and 2017. Their chances at the playoffs overall (80.4%) and World Series (9.0%) were both fairly high, but again, not as high as we’d probably all have liked.

Now? According to those ZiPS projections, the Cubs’ chances of winning their division increased up to 71.9%! And their chances of making the playoffs lies at basically 90% – that’s a HUGE jump from a single signing.

And before we keep going, just for fun, take a look at what would’ve happened to the Cardinals, had they signed Darvish, instead of the Cubs:

Their chances of winning the division would’ve nearly DOUBLED from 17.2% to 31.8%. It’s still a long-shot, and, hey, who knows, maybe Bud Norris puts them over the top *covers laugh with hand* – but yeah, let’s just say it’s a good thing the Cubs finalized things with Darvish when they did.

On a win/loss level, the Cubs were previously projected by FanGraphs to go 89-73 in 2018, which would’ve given them the seventh best record in baseball, and third best in the National League (behind the Dodgers and Nationals). That was just five wins better than the Brewers and six wins better than the Cardinals’ projection at the time.

Now, with Darvish in the fold, FanGraphs is projecting the Cubs to finish the 2018 season at 94-68, which makes them tied for the second best record in baseball (with the Dodgers) behind only the Astros (98-64). WHOA BABY! That’s one heckuva jump.

And check out what it did to their runs allowed per game and overall run differential (runs scored per game remained static):

Runs Allowed per Game:

Before Darvish: 4.52 RA/G (10th)
After Darvish: 4.20 RA/G (t-2nd)

Runs Diffential:

Before Darvish: +77 runs (7th)
After Darvish: +130 (2nd)

Holy crap.

Remember, this isn’t all directly Darvish – the Cubs improved the bullpen by reinstalling Mike Montgomery as full-timer, as well as the quality of the starts gobbled up by anyone not in the starting five, with the same guy. Of course, that wasn’t possible until a new starter jumped into the fold – and it just so happens that the Cubs new starter also happens to be really, really good.

But make no mistake, the Cubs went from likely playoff team, to no-doubt, World Series contender over the weekend. Or, differently, the Cubs might’ve just become the team to beat in the National League.

And it’s not just FanGraphs.

When we checked in on the initial PECOTA projections at BP, the Cubs figured to win 89 games in 2018 (same as FanGraphs). But now, after the Darvish signing, the Cubs are projected to win 92 games, which is behind only the Dodgers in the NL (99-63 – PECOTA loves them) and the Astros (99-63), Indians (97-65), and Yankees (96-66) in the AL.

The signing also increases the gap between the Cubs and Brewers/Cardinals by three more wins, which makes their chances in the NL Central a far better bet than it was just a few days ago.

The offseason is still not over, and it’s entirely possible that the Brewers add a big-time starter (via trade or free agency) and/or the Cardinals add a legit closer like Greg Holland, but the Cubs have added some serious breathing room, and have certainly made things much easier on themselves heading into Spring Training.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami