Before the Cubs signed Yu Darvish, FanGraphs had projected them to win 92 games — the same amount as last year — and win the NL Central. That win projection shot up to 94 games after Darvish agreed to a six year, $126 million guaranteed deal.
FanGraphs’ accumulated pitching WAR for the Cubs next season was 18.7 before Darvish inked up, and now it’s 20.6. Only the Dodgers (22.9), Astros (22.3), and Indians (20.8) have better pitching forecasts.
The Cubs’ total WAR projection also shot up to 49.5 since the signing, which is now good for third-best in MLB behind the Astros (52.0) and Dodgers (50.2). In essence, Darvish puts the Cubs within sniffing distance of the respective league champions from last year.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were starting to more closely resemble that powerhouse team from 2016. You know, the one that was crowned World Series champions.
Then there are the ZiPS projections for the Cubs division, playoff, and World Series chances, all of which significantly changed after adding a new ace. Their division chances, for example, shot up almost 14 percent, while their World Series chances went up three percent.
ZiPS division/playoff/WS prob for Cubs before signing Yu Darvish: 58.4%/80.4%/9.0%. After: 71.9%/89.9%/12.1%
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) February 11, 2018
If you’re a gambler, you probably took notice of what signing Darvish meant for the Cubs’ World Series odds. Vegas moved them up from 8/1 to 7/1 and shifted the Cardinals down from 18/1 to 20/1 (lol). The Rockies dipped as well, from 30/1 to 40/1. The Dodgers (5/1) are still the favorites to win it all.
FanGraphs win projections performed fairly well last year, but there’s still a lot of noise in those numbers. One standard deviation was 5.8 wins in 2017, meaning that the Cubs’ 94 win projection could be seen as swinging six games in either direction (88-100).