We don’t yet have the initial PECOTA projections for the standings – remember how that blew up last year when the Cubs were projected to finish horribly, and everyone laughed? No one is laughing now … – but BP did just release its individual player projections using the PECOTA system.
You can check it all out here (premium), but I wanted to drop a few thoughts on things that stuck out to me:
- Relatively speaking, PECOTA is loving Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber, all of whom are projected to be among the 32 best bats in baseball. Schwarber (32) projects third among that trio, and even he is projected to be 28% better than league average.
- PECOTA is much less rosy on the rest of the offense, with only Willson Contreras (15%), Javy Baez (13%), and David Bote (7%) projected to be better than average. Suffice to say, PECOTA is much lower on Ian Happ, for example, than we are.
- I chuckle – in a good way – at Brennen Davis’ statistical projection (which, remember, is based on the data and historical comps involving age, past success, etc.), which has the 20-year-old, who has played just one partial season at Low-A, hitting .248/.309/.417 if he were in the big leagues this year (just 4% worse than league average). It’s a virtually identical projection to that of Nico Hoerner.
- On the whole, PECOTA really hammers the Cubs for a lack of positional depth, which is not a surprise.
- PECOTA, like ZiPS, buys a Craig Kimbrel bounce-back in a big way (the 11th best pitcher in baseball by DRA-). Historically, guys who have been as good as he was apparently do not completely disintegrate at his age, and instead, a fluky down year is more likely to have been the case. Obviously these are just statistical projections, not a guarantee – but the smarter money is on Kimbrel being good in 2020.
- You may remember that it was the pitcher projections last year from PECOTA that really sank the Cubs when it came time for the system to project the team’s overall performance. And, once again, PECOTA haaaaaaates the Cubs’ pitching. It projects Jon Lester to absolutely crater, becoming one of the worst pitchers in the entire organization (20% worse than league average), with Tyler Chatwood barely a click better (19% worse than league average), and Jose Quintana also 5% worse than league average. I think these projects are way too dour, but still, as we’ve discussed, concerns about the Cubs’ rotation are extremely well-founded.
- (Still, if your projection system has Richard Gallardo, the 18-year-old recent IFA signee who has thrown 4.0 innings above rookie ball, outperforming Jon Lester by 15 points of DRA- at the big league level in 2020 (and tied with Jose Quintana), you may need to tweak a thing or two in the algorithm.)
- As for the surprisingly bright pitching projections, PECOTA is really buying Alec Mills (12% better than league average, 4th best pitcher on the team, behind only Kimbrel, Yu Darvish, and Kyle Hendricks). The only other pitchers better than league average – and just barely – are Cory Abbott, Jharel Cotton, and Jeremy Jeffress. Even setting aside the very limited DEGREE to which the Cubs’ pitchers are projected to be better than average, the total volume is so tiny compared to other competitive teams. It’s really quite jarring as I scroll through team after team with loads more quality pitching depth – by the projections – than the Cubs. Here’s hoping the Pitch Lab really works its magic!
- Like I said: PECOTA really hates the Cubs’ pitching.
On the whole, I think you can very safely presume the Cubs will once again be projected horribly overall by PECOTA when those first standings projections come out. Even as I might quibble with some of the individual player projections, I think the point remains: a colder, analytical look at this roster is not impressed. At best, you see a club that can compete if everything goes right, some guys break out, and everyone stays healthy.