I love pie. Pumkin, apple, cherry, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb, pecan, chocolate, and, ohhhhhh, sugar cream. I mean, I’m no Keith Law, but I’m no stranger to downing a piece or 3.14 at every opportunity. And even when I know I shouldn’t be going back for that extra piece I just can’t help from over-indulging. It’s just soooo good.
Likewise, I’m a sucker for the projections of noted baseball statistician Bill James, who is notoriously favorable when it comes to offensive production. Each year, he puts out a handbook featuring all kinds of valuable information. This year’s edition is “the first-to-market, most comprehensive, and most fun annual reference guide to the complete lifetime stats on every player in the majors in 2015. New sections include “On the Black” analysis of how often specific pitchers hit the corners of the plate and “Times to First Base” on how fast specific batters get to first on balls in play. And, of course, there will be first projections on what players can be expected to do next season in every facet of the game.”
It’s like the baseball nerd’s Bible, but without the begats and beatitudes. What the two books share though, what James’s disciples really desire, are numbers. For the purposes of this post, I’m not concerned so much with the real numbers as the hypotheticals, specifically those concerning the tantalizing possibilities for the Cubs players next season. Last season’s projections were notable in that they gave us hope for what could be for players we looked forward to seeing at Wrigley. Now, however, we’re excited to see what more they can all do.
The James Handbook was released in print on November 1st, but there was a curious absence in the data therein. Kyle Schwarber’s projections had been unintentionally omitted and was absent from the initial posts on this topic, much to the dismay and chagrin of those of us hoping to drool over what James said was in store for the sophomore slugger. Ah, but the downloadable version corrected all that, as you can see below.
Note that I just displayed any of the players who were with the Cubs this year without excluding, say, Dexter Fowler.
In retrospect, I think the exclusion of Schwarber’s stats may have been a good thing. I mean, just look at them. It’s not unreasonable to think that buyers would just get stuck staring at the possibility of having War Bear and the Unicorn back-to-back in the order, putting up 73 home runs, 222 runs, and 223 RBI while hitting around .295 between them. Oh, and Bryant’s gonna cut down on his strikeouts too. Swoon.
Taking it a step further, James predicts the Cubs’ starting infield to 100 homers (Bryant – 37, Rizzo – 31, Russell – 20, Montero -12, Castro – 11) with 353 RBI (you can do the math on your own there). And jack-of-all-trades Javy Baez is going to hit 27 homers with 96 RBI and 26 steals (!) in 561 at-bats. Yeah, you read that right. He’s going to. These projections are gospel. Okay, not really, but man are they fun to peruse.
They’re so fun, in fact, that I almost forgot about the pitchers. Yes, James projects those guys too, and with almost as much of a favorable bent. Kyle Hendricks has a particularly good outlook, as does Jon Lester. Jake Arrieta, on the other hand, isn’t expected to dominate in the same fashion as in 2016.
Again, these are merely projections based on proprietary algorithms (which I assume are more sophisticated than my preferred method of simply guessing), so you need to take them all with a grain of salt. But since there’s no better time to speculate than while sitting around the hot stove, let’s take a look at the projections for some of the pitchers the Cubs may be targeting (both FA’s and in trades).
I could go on and on just looking over the little bits of information here and there; just so much to take in here. But in spite of my desire to get lost in the numbers, I’m going to step away and just let them breathe. How about you though? What are your thoughts?