Spring Training is winding down, in a little over a week the exhibition season is over and the games count. The Cubs kick-off the 2015 season against the Cardinals in nine days at Wrigley Field.
Predictions for the upcoming season are rolling in and while the win totals vary, the consensus is that the Cubs will take a big step forward this year. And some predictions and projections have the team that won 73 games a year ago in the middle of the race in the NL Central.
A .500 record would be a considerable improvement for an organization that has not had a winning record in six years. But the Cubs have set the bar rather high and the expectations of the fan base are even higher. While the team took several steps, if not leaps, forward in the off-season many within the game think the Cubs are still a year away from contending for a division title.
Hardball Talk and Sports Illustrated released predictions for the season … and PECOTA posted an update to its projections.
Hardball Talk previewed the Cubs for the upcoming season and Drew Silva thinks the Cubs “could very well be in the conversation when October comes.” Silva pointed out there is enough talent for the team to be in the thick of the playoff race the entire season.
Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant “should be the cornerstones” of the Cubs offense with Rizzo hitting third ahead of Soler when the season begins. And Silva sees Joe Maddon as “the perfect manager to the lead the Cubs into this new era of success.”
Silva’s Prediction: If everything goes right “the Cubs will be a factor in a deep divisional race.” Silva points to Kris Bryant becoming “an instant star,” Javier Baez laying “off the junk” and Starlin Castro sharpening his game as three of the things that must happen in order for the Cubs to win games. Like many, Silva sees the Cubs as being a year away from “making the big jump” and a third place team in the NL Central with 84 victories (84-78) … just missing out on the playoffs.
When the first PECOTA projections for the 2015 season were released at the end of January, the system calculated an 82-Win campaign for the Cubs. Which at the time an 82-80 record was good enough, according to PECOTA, to finish behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and a game out of the second wild card spot in the Senior Circuit.
The same PECOTA system figured the 73-89 team from a year ago would post a 71-91 record.
PECOTA updated its depth charts and found three more victories for the Cubs … and the 85-77 record would still not be enough to catch the Cardinals (88-74) but would be enough for the fourth best mark in the National League.
PECOTA thinks the Cubs will score 677 runs, allow 643 runs and finish with a .244/.311/.396 slash line.
Based on PECOTA’s projections, the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers will be the three division winners in the National League with the Chicago Cubs finishing with the fourth best record. The San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants would play Game 163 to see who would face the Cubs in the one-game playoff.
Here’s how PECOTA predicts the 2015 season will play out in the standings:
- Washington Nationals – 92-70
- New York Mets – 83-79
- Miami Marlins – 81-81
- Atlanta Braves – 72-90
- Philadelphia Phillies – 67-95
- St. Louis Cardinals – 88-74
- Chicago Cubs – 85-77
- Milwaukee Brewers – 81-81
- Pittsburgh Pirates – 81-81
- Cincinnati Reds – 76-86
- Los Angeles Dodgers – 98-64
- San Diego Padres – 84-78
- San Francisco Giants – 84-78
- Arizona Diamondbacks – 74-88
- Colorado Rockies – 71-91
- Boston Red Sox – 87-75
- Tampa Bay Rays – 87-75
- Toronto Blue Jays – 81-81
- New York Yankees – 80-82
- Baltimore Orioles – 79-83
- Detroit Tigers – 83-79
- Cleveland Indians – 81-81
- Chicago White Sox – 78-84
- Kansas City Royals – 72-90
- Minnesota Twins – 71-91
- Los Angeles Angels – 91-71
- Seattle Mariners – 87-75
- Oakland Athletics – 84-78
- Texas Rangers – 78-84
- Houston Astros – 77-85
Sports Illustrated has been posting team previews and rankings this week. And Sports Illustrated ranked the Cubs in the middle of the pack, or the 16th best team in baseball. SI thinks the Cubs will finish the year with an 82-80 record.
The 82 wins would put the Cubs in third place in the NL Central, behind the second place Pirates (88-74) and of course the Cardinals.
Sports Illustrated pointed out if everything falls into place for the Cubs this season, the organization could return to the post-season for the first time since 2008.
There are rotation questions behind Jon Lester that need to be answered, according to SI, even with the breakout season Jake Arrieta put together.
The Cubs would need for Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler to adjust to big league pitching, make more contact and produce at the plate. Plus, Kris Bryant, once he’s promoted, to make a quick transition to the majors in order for the team to have a successful season. SI labeled Starlin Castro as the Cubs’ X-Factor and emphasized this is a pivotal year for Castro.
On paper, the Cubs have the talent to win more games than it loses this year. And it will be up to Joe Maddon and his staff to turn promise into victories this season.