Bill James Projects 2015 Cubs to be Offensive Juggernaut

There I was, minding my own business and allowing the Bears to lobotomize me from the safety of my recliner, when I saw this little nugget of Cubbish goodness from Phil Rogers:


From the Bill James Handbook (as seen in Bleed Cubbie Blue):

Arismendy Alcantara: 154 G, 582 AB, 38 2B, 19 HR, 70 RBI, 48 BB, 32 SB, .259/.317/.450
Javier Baez: 152 G, 612 AB, 33 2B, 32 HR, 82 RBI, 48 BB, 23 SB, .242/.298/456
Kris Bryant: 152 G, 530 AB, 32 2B, 33 HR, 75 RBI, 66 BB, 18 SB, .266/.347/.517
Anthony Rizzo: 158 G, 598 AB, 39 2B, 34 HR, 99 RBI, 74 BB, 6 SB, .274/.362/.478
Jorge Soler: 146 G, 542 AB, 36 2B, 28 HR, 94 RBI, 67 BB, 2 SB, .247/.330/.483

I’ll give you a moment to let unbridled awesomeness of those numbers sink in.

Okay, ready to continue? Good. If accurate, the six players listed would account for 168 HR, 516 R, and 468 RBI. Oh, and 888 K. These are eye-popping numbers all the way around, particularly for a team that has endured some pretty well-documented offensive struggles over the last few years.

The 614 runs they scored put the Cubs 26th in the majors and their 590 RBI ranked 23rd. But according to James, the six players listed above will account for a majority of that production on their own. The Cubs did show a little pop last year though, finishing 5th in all of baseball in home runs with 157. But even that acceptable total is only 11 fewer than that of the players in Rogers’ sample.

And if that K total looks a little swollen, consider that the 2014 Cubs whiffed a major league-leading 1,477 times. One would expect the youngsters to mature a bit in terms of their plate discipline, but I’m not sure we can realistically expect them to strike out that much less in 2015.

If we lay the projections against last year’s results, James says that the youthful Cubs core will account for 107% of the home runs, 84% of the runs, and 79.3% of the RBI. I know, I know, it’s obvious that 6 players can’t hit more than 100% of the homers and that the Cubs will score more runs in 2015 than they did in 2014. With that in mind, let’s compare these projections to the best offenses in baseball last year.

The Cubs sextuplets would have hit 79.6% of the Baltimore Orioles’ 211 homers. They’d have racked up 66.75% of the LA Angels’ 773 runs and 64% of the Detroit Tigers’ 731 RBI. At the same time, this vaunted group would only account for 60.1% of those nearly 1,500 strikeouts.

Again, this is only considering a portion of the everyday players, particularly when you figure that neither Bryant nor Russell will be with the team for the whole season. If you add in the projections for players like Welington Castillo, Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, et al, the Cubs would have an offense that’s perhaps the most potent in the majors. Is anyone else getting a little skeptical here?

Probably all of you, even if you weren’t previously aware of James’ notoriously optimistic projections, particularly where offense is concerned, had to question the validity of these numbers. Even so, you can’t tell me you didn’t get a little excited about the possibilities. A couple of you probably had to grab hankies for the drool running down your respective chins.

Based on the numbers above, the 2015 Bill James Handbook is very accurately titled and should be sold in airport bookstores wrapped in opaque plastic. Of course, I really only get it for the articles. But these are the Cubs, right? Surely, the expected totals for the pitching staff would be the numerical equivalent of a cold shower or thoughts of a naked Bea Arthur.

Au contraire, mon frère.

I don’t have the handbook itself, but based on the snapshot of the stats they look pretty darn nifty. Of the starters, only Edwin Jackson is projected to post an ERA greater than 4.0. Still, I’m reasonably sure everyone would be fine with 7-11 and a 4.50 ERA over 164 IP.

Jake Arrieta looks to have a bit of a letdown season after his breakout performance in 2014, but Kyle Hendricks looks to build on his own coming-out party. Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Eric Jokisch are all projected to have relatively strong campaigns as well.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that these projections are exactly that. They’re educated guesses that can’t be taken as gospel. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a hell of a lot of fun to look through them and fantasize about what could be for the Cubs next year.

But the fact that these aren’t just coming from the warped mind of some meatball like me indicates that there’s something here worth noting. James wouldn’t be throwing out these kinds of numbers for just any group of schlubs. And even if they don’t live up to these lofty stats, there’s a reason for the unbridled optimism.

So take it with a grain of salt, but take heart in the fact that there’s a foundation for the faith you’ve been clinging to for so long now.

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