The Cubs as the Best Team In Baseball

It’s my belief that, right now, the Cubs are the best team in baseball. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to express your own belief at the end. I know that we’ve been a little heavy on Cubs posts. It’s not entirely our fault — they’ve been active. I also know it’s not super important who looks like the best team in baseball in the middle of December. There’s offseason left, and there’s spring training to go, and countless things could change. It also happens to be my belief the Cubs will remain the best team in baseball as we reach Opening Day, but this is about things as they are. Right now, literally as you read this, provided you read this somewhere close to the publishing date.

I’m going to lay out why I think the Cubs are the best. I’m also going to try to lay out why they might not be, despite all the stuff in the first part. It’s not about being contradictory — it’s about trying to cover everything. At the bottom of the post, you’ll respond to a very simple question. We’ll see which argument you find most convincing.

Why do the Cubs look like they’re the best team in baseball? I suppose we could start with what they did last year, when they were among the best teams in baseball. They finished with the third-best record, and a strong run differential. They were fourth according to BaseRuns. They’ve lost a few pieces, but they’ve gained Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, and Jason Heyward. The last two came at the expense of the rival Cardinals. The Cardinals have also lost Lance Lynn, which cuts into the benefit of adding Adam Wainwright. The Blue Jays were awesome, but they’re out David Price. The Dodgers are out Zack Greinke. The Mets are out Yoenis Cespedes. The champion Royals are out Zobrist, Johnny Cueto, and Alex Gordon. I don’t need to go team by team. The Cubs were really good, and so far they’ve gotten better.

You knew this part was coming: it helps to look at the projections. Better to look ahead than to look back. The only full projections we have right now are Steamer. And we have Steamer-projected team WAR, as opposed to Steamer-projected team record, and though there’s a strong relationship there, it’s not always perfect. That’s stuff to be kept in mind, but here’s a grab from our projected team WAR page:

cubs-projections

This is the strongest part of the argument. In fact, when you look at this, it seems like it shouldn’t even be a debate. The Cubs have a lead of more than three wins on second place. It’s about eight wins on third place. Don’t sleep on the Dodgers — people are down on them right now, but they’re still built well. Really well, by these projections. They’re just not built quite as well as the Cubs. By the best and only projections we have today, it’s the Cubs, and it’s the rest.

You might remember that, a year ago, Steamer said some things that ultimately looked funny, about the Mariners and Red Sox. Can’t forget about that. Steamer liked those teams — many projection systems liked those teams — and they sputtered. The Cubs, too, could sputter, but I don’t think the projections actually look surprising. For all I know people are already taking the Cubs for granted. Who wouldn’t think they’re excellent?

A fun fact for you: with Heyward, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester, the Cubs have five of baseball’s projected top 40 players. It’s actually five of the top 31, but I wanted to round. They’re not at all lacking for star power, and behind the Cubs, in terms of top-40 players, the Nationals and Rangers are tied with three. Other teams have two or fewer. You can’t really compete with the top of the Cubs’ roster.

But the depth is there, too. The only positions where the Cubs don’t project to be top-10 are catcher and right field, where they’re projected 16th. They’re top-five at first, second, third base, left field, center field, starting rotation, and bullpen. They’re first by position players, and second by pitchers, hence the first-place overall WAR ranking. Think about what we have here — arguably the Cubs’ biggest problem is Jorge Soler, one of the most talented young hitters in the league. He hasn’t gotten close to his ceiling, but the height of the ceiling is undeniable.

Think the Cubs are benefiting from being over-projected? Rizzo isn’t projected to improve. Zobrist isn’t projected to improve. Russell projects for the same offense. Bryant projects for the same offense. Kyle Schwarber: slightly worse offense. Jason Heyward: same offense. Soler: career mark. Steamer thinks Arrieta’s ERA gains more than a full run. It thinks Lester is going to be Lester.

There aren’t any projected breakouts. There also aren’t any projected collapses, but who, really, would you expect to come apart? The team is mostly either young or proven and steady. Maybe the strikeout-prone sluggers go through their slumps, as pitchers make adjustments, but they’re phenomenally talented sluggers. Rizzo, Heyward, Zobrist, we know, more or less. We think we have a read on Bryant and Schwarber. Russell and Soler have the upside, and I probably shouldn’t leave Miguel Montero completely out of this post.

I don’t identify as a Cubs fan, myself, but I do identify as someone who can be convinced with numbers, and their numbers are fairly convincing. Even if some of the numbers are just projections, what is a projection but a future estimate based on what’s already happened? So many of these Cubs players have already succeeded. Even the bullpen, quietly, is strong, led by the underrated Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop. Could be deeper. Is still better than most.

It’s not the easiest thing to argue against the Cubs. I guess I don’t need to try to argue that they’re not good — they’re very obviously good. Are they best-team-in-baseball good? There are at least some reasonable doubts. We should entertain those, before I eventually ask you the question.

Start with, say, Soler. At the moment, he’s lined up to start in right field, and while the projections don’t love him, last year Soler was a replacement-level player. Most of his game is his power, so when he doesn’t have his power, he doesn’t have much of a use. It shouldn’t be considered a sure thing that Soler will manage something like an average batting line.

If you turn quickly to defense, what to make of Schwarber and Heyward in the outfield? Schwarber is a catcher who isn’t much of a catcher, so even on his best days, he won’t look gifted in left. And while Heyward is a known elite defender in a corner, he’s started all of 30 career games in the middle. He might not have the smooth adjustment the Cubs could expect.

Zobrist, also, was a worse defender last year, as he dealt with a knee problem. He’s 34 now, so he’s not getting more agile. There’s some chance he’s a liability.

Bryant? He’s good, but he had a .378 BABIP. Struck out a bunch. Might slump. Arrieta’s fantastic, but there were some yellow flags down the stretch, so he might not rebound well from the workload. Lester has zero control of the running game so that leads to extra, unwanted runs. Jason Hammel was miserable in the second half. The bullpen is interesting, but seems to thin out after the top two. It’s not an accident rumors are linking the Cubs to various available high-leverage relievers.

There’s one more point: the league adjustment. The American League remains superior to the National League, but there’s a chance we’re still underrating that gap. Which would make the Cubs’ WAR projection look better, while AL teams look worse. There’s no perfect way to handle this, but it isn’t something to forget about. Last season, the AL beat the NL in head-to-head contests about 56% of the time. It’s significant!

When you get down to it, though, every team in baseball has things that could very reasonably go wrong. Like, on the Dodgers, Yasiel Puig is projected as the best position player. Last year he was worth a win and a half. And as for the league adjustment, I think it’s a good point, but again, the Cubs have a projected eight-WAR advantage over the apparent best team in the AL. The league adjustment can’t account for all that, no matter how aggressive. Some people don’t like the word “projections,” but all they are are educated guesses, based on track record. Based on their own track records, the Cubs seem like they damn well might be the best team in baseball at the moment.

So now it’s your turn. This couldn’t be easier. I know it’s the middle of December, and this would be more interesting in several months. Maybe we’ll do it again in several months. This is the thing that we’re doing today.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Jerry
Guest
Jerry
5 months 13 days ago

Congrats on your new gig as the fangraphs Chicago Cubs beat writer Jeff!

esdrtfyu
Guest
esdrtfyu
5 months 11 days ago

There is absolutely no change whatsoever in how the Phillies are run.

Bill Giles put the ownership group together with people who think like him 35 years ago. Guess what? Bill Giles is still there. He took part in the hiring of MacPhail and Klentak both. He was at the press conference announcing the hiring of Klentak.

35 Years.

Jim Thome and Cliff Lee

That’s it.

35 Years.

Carlos Ruiz and Maikel Franco, the only two starting quality players signed out of Latin America. Ruiz was signed out of Panama for eight thousand dollars. Need that in numerical form? $8,000- Eight Stacks.

Maikel Franco was signed for $100,000- That’s one hundred thousand American dollars. One hundred Stacks.

The Red Sox paid $63 million to sign Yoan Moncada. The Phillies paid $108,000- to sign both Carlos Ruiz and Maikel Franco.

Two real free agents and two starting position players from Latin America signed for nothing.

The Phillies Way is unchanged. They will sit in the cellar until they collect enough free talent in the MLB Plantation Slave Auction held every June. These young slave/intern players will be exploited to the max by the Phillies bloodsucking ownership cabal. For seven years they will make these bloodsucking criminals massive profits. If a few become fan favorites and the crowds are still huge as they near free agency then they will be signed to short, team friendly deals. If any have slipped through their screening process and turn out to be normal players seeking long contracts they will be demonized and booted out the door.

The Phillies after telling lies to their fan base from 2012 onward finally admitted they were “rebuilding”. The truth of the matter is they are already planning their next rebuild as they conduct this one.

THAT is The Phillies Way.

Google: Kevin Maitan FREE_AEC

Blue
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Blue
5 months 13 days ago

Someone finally decided to turn the Cubs into the fully operational Death Star the team always had the potential to become.

Bil
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Bil
5 months 13 days ago

If I was a Cubs fan I don’t think I’d like that comparison, seeing as how death stars don’t tend to stick around very long…

joser
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joser
5 months 13 days ago

Especially when Darth Bryant gets a hold of one.

BOb
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BOb
5 months 13 days ago

“Cubs Win” = Beggar’s Canyon

Slacker George
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Slacker George
5 months 12 days ago

Someone said, I think it was Darth Sidious: “My sh*t doesn’t work in the ultimate battle. My job is to get us to the battle. What happens after that is f*cking luck.”

Lucas
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Lucas
5 months 13 days ago

The bleacher creatures find your lack of faith disturbing.

Steven Gomez
Guest
5 months 13 days ago

They’re not doing all that construction at Wrigley Field for nothing!

bada bing
Guest
bada bing
5 months 13 days ago

jar jar binks

Satan
Guest
Satan
5 months 13 days ago

Its getting cold around here…

BDC
Guest
BDC
5 months 13 days ago

2016 baserun champs!

Ugggggggh
Guest
Ugggggggh
5 months 13 days ago

And the Fangraphs writers continue to compete for jobs in the Cubs front office. Can’t wait to see the excuses when a better team (like the Royals) win the World Series yet again.

brian
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brian
5 months 13 days ago

I never get comments like this. Of course this is all just projections and not actually what will happen/is happening. It’s December.

What else baseball related to you wan to talk about? Stuff that’s already happened? That’s kind of dull. We already know what has happened.

Even as the trademark “best team in baseball” no rational person gives them more than say a 15% chance of winning the WS, because baseball.

Fake Uggggggggh
Guest
Fake Uggggggggh
5 months 13 days ago

The Royals are the best best bestest team!
Lorenzo Cain is the bestest.
Wade Davis is the bestest.
Yordana Ventura is a gentleman.
And as fangraphs writer, I deeply apologize for the existence of outliers. Despite the years of evidence that say projections are pretty reliable I will never use them again, and instead determine WITHOUT STATS which team is the Royalsiest, and hold them up as the best.
For my sins of doubting the Royals I will now commit hare kiri.

This is what I want fangraphs writers to talk about.

Rick Monday
Guest
5 months 12 days ago

Who?

Stan
Guest
Stan
5 months 13 days ago

Its no secret that fangraphs has been running more than its share of Cubs articles since Theo was hired. Its a little like ESPN and the Yankees back in their heyday- only the Cubs haven’t actually accomplished anything yet.

They may be great, but they can’t afford many injuries.

David K
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David K
5 months 13 days ago

Who can?

Za
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Za
5 months 13 days ago

Maybe it’s because Theo/Hoyer have put together a pretty strong team using modern player evaluation techniques, effective trading, and drafting. And you’re also wrong about the injuries; the Cubs look like one of the best teams in the entire sport at dealing with injuries.

Deelron
Member
Deelron
5 months 13 days ago

Getting to the NLCS is accomplishing something, even if it’s not the final goal.

Andrew
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Andrew
5 months 12 days ago

Ya except they can afford injuries. Coghlan, baez, and arguably la Stella could all start on most teams but they will be on the bench. Adam warren is a decent sixth starter option along with Cahill and wood.

BigChief
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BigChief
5 months 13 days ago

I’m confused, are you suggesting the Royals are better? Or are you just taking the field. Obviously the field has a better chance or winning the world series, but is there a specific team with a better chance? None that are obvious to me at least.

Tommy
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Tommy
5 months 13 days ago

I think the Dodgers have a better chance because they don’t have the Cardinals and Pirates in their division. The gap in projected WAR between LA and SF is greater than the gap between CHC and STL

Guest
Guest
Guest
5 months 13 days ago

The Giants are currently projected to have the 3rd worst production from CF in MLB. Seeing as thy did not pick up Aoki’s option, I fully expect them to add another OF. Also, I’ll take the “under” on both Puig’s projection (4.6 WAR) and Pederson’s projection (3.1 WAR) who happen to be their two best (projected) hitters.

BigChief
Guest
BigChief
5 months 13 days ago

Good point. I can concede there might be other favorites due to realative divsional competition.

Maybe I should have took another approach to my response. Perhap’s this is better: “…taking the field. Assuming leagues and division did not exist and all teams played equal schedules, obvisouly the field has a better chanc of winnin the world series, but is there a specific team with a better chance…”

Billy Corman
Member
Billy Corman
5 months 13 days ago

I think the biggest impediment to Cub success… saying this as a lifelong Cardinals fan… is the swing-and-miss in their lineup. The Mets showed the way with power arms. The NLDS was 60s and wind blowing out. The NLCS was 30s-40 and wind blowing in and the batting order sank.

Wainwright is a pretty huge return. Reyes is a hard thrower (change is the swing-and-miss pitcher here) and the bullpen still tops 98 daily. Putting those two in the division negates some Cub power, and hopefully, wins.

glib
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glib
5 months 13 days ago

Replying to guest, the Giants have their minuses all concentrated in two players: Cain and Pagan. Are they terrible? Oh yes. Will the Giants do something about them in May? You bet. So take these non-dynamic WAR predictions with a grain of salt.

MikeS
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MikeS
5 months 13 days ago

I took the field. It is still baseball,after all.

The Dude
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The Dude
5 months 13 days ago

I think the problem with the Royals (as of now) is they have a lot of question marks. 2B is currently a black hole, as is most of their OF. Cain is great. After that is Dyson (who was below average last year, and projects to be the same in 2016). Cain, Moustakas, and Hosmer were all old for a breakout year (29, 27, and 26 respectively) so most projection systems find it dubious that they will be able to maintain such elite levels. Also, defense and speed peak early, which decreases Cain’s value. Hosmer’s 2015 was almost identical (though slightly better) to his 2013, but was replacement level in 2014. They’re also losing the value added by Holland (1st half) and Zobrist (2nd half).

senor_mike
Guest
senor_mike
5 months 13 days ago

I think the original comment had less to do with how the Royals are projected for 2016, and more to do with the projections missing out on the Royals the prior 2 years. The implication is that maybe the projection systems may still be missing a significant component or two.

Or maybe it was just gloating snark.

Baseball Executive Hiring Process
Guest
Baseball Executive Hiring Process
5 months 13 days ago

This blog writer seems to have a bias in our favor. Let’s hire him.

filihok
Member
5 months 13 days ago

Yeah.

This is the post that will get Theo to take notice of what’s going on at FG

Brett
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Brett
5 months 13 days ago

It will be even sweeter when they lose to the Mets again in the NLCS.

Jim
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Jim
5 months 13 days ago

Mets have to make it there first. I’d say the Cubs chances of making it are higher.

Brett
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Brett
5 months 13 days ago

I agree. The Mets are built for the playoffs. Cubs are built for the regular season.

durn
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durn
5 months 13 days ago

I don’t know…I’d say the Mets are built for April, August, and maybe the Division Series, while the Cubs are built for June & July, as well as the second game of the League Championship series.

cktai
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cktai
5 months 13 days ago

Their biggest problem is that they absolutely have to win the fourth game because they are not build for the fifth or the sixth game of the NLCS

AliasAlias
Guest
AliasAlias
5 months 12 days ago

STL anybody?
*Waits for comment to be thumbs down by cubs fans..

AliasAlias
Guest
AliasAlias
5 months 12 days ago

STL anybody?
*Waits for comment to be thumbs down by cubs fans…

Mark
Guest
Mark
5 months 13 days ago

After watching them a lot last year (Pirates fan), I would add that the Cubs really seemed to be on the same page and focused throughout the year and especially in the second half. My point being they were a really strong TEAM, aside from how good they are individually.

Kevin
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Kevin
5 months 13 days ago

I don’t know what that means. What does a good TEAM do that a bad team doesn’t? Do they hit the cutoff man better? Make double-plays better? Are they better at timing pickoff plays?

Do they cheer louder?

I honestly can’t think of an aspect of baseball where two (or more) players connect on a play to do something where the range of performance at the MLB level is very big. To me, if you take the best and worst chemistry middle infielders and watched them each turn a double play, there’d be virtually no difference.

Please clarify.

Tristan
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Tristan
5 months 11 days ago

A team which plays well together will push the individuals to play better.
If you enjoy time spent with your team mates you gain motivation, you pull for each other, you help each other through the tough times.

If you have a team which doesn’t work well together, then you spend more energy fighting each other than the opposition.

Just think about your workplace – if you have to work with the miserable SOB you can’t stand you’re less motivated, less productive and more liable to make mistakes. If you’re with someone you like, you help each other more, you are more productive (so long as you don’t just goof off).

For a good example of where being a good team probably helped – Starlin Castro – he was benched, but rather than sulk or be ostracised he worked, got back on the team at 2nd base and thrived. That would be less likely to happen on a dysfunctional team.

dang
Guest
dang
5 months 13 days ago

Where can I find this “Steamer-projected team WAR” page? I just want to confirm that my Phillies are still at the bottom. :)

BigChief
Guest
BigChief
5 months 13 days ago

So you can find it in the future: Go to standings tab and click 2015 projected standings, then click the Totals option on the far right.

joser
Guest
joser
5 months 13 days ago

Where I just discovered the 31st team with a projected WAR total more than 50% greater than the Cubs. I want to get on this bandwagon before it starts — where can I get my “Free Agents” team jersey?

Hollywood Hills
Guest
5 months 13 days ago

Don’t get excited when you look at the number. Like Cody Asche’s WAR, there’s a minus sign in front of it.

senor_mike
Guest
senor_mike
5 months 13 days ago
Leo Walter
Guest
Leo Walter
5 months 13 days ago

I thought I had gone to Bleed Cubby Blue ” somehow !

neeker
Guest
neeker
5 months 13 days ago

The thing is, they didn’t just lose to the Mets, they were blasted out of space by a star destroyer with 4 very big ion cannons …

CytoScene
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CytoScene
5 months 13 days ago

If you’re inviting the comparisons…

A New Hope was defeating the Cardinals in the NLDS

Empire Strikes Back was losing to the Mets in the NLCS

Return of the Jedi must be the Cards defeating the Mets in the NLDS this year, and the Cubs going all the way.

Sounds good to me.

Not A Giants Fan But Still
Guest
Not A Giants Fan But Still
5 months 13 days ago

Shame on the Cubs for trying to win in an even year

Spa City
Member
Member
Spa City
5 months 13 days ago

1908…Theodore Roosevelt was president, the Ford Model T was introduced, and the Cubs won the World Series for the second and final time.

Hawk
Guest
Hawk
5 months 13 days ago

Looks like the White Sox’ lone fan has showed up to comment.

shrugs
Guest
shrugs
5 months 13 days ago

Let’s be fair, here!

Spa City could easily be a Cardinals fan.

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
5 months 13 days ago

Indians fans have a big stake in this.

Spa City
Member
Member
Spa City
5 months 13 days ago

Just a bitter, angry Pirates fan.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
5 months 13 days ago

My mother’s Turkish. I explained to her that the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series when Ataturk was fresh out of the military academy, and she was flat-out amazed.

The Cubs’ championship drought is historical and kinda mind-boggling. The last time they won the World Series, the Wright Brothers were conducting the first public demonstrations of their airplanes.

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
5 months 13 days ago

God bless your Mom. I wonder if the Ottomans were Cubs fans?

Attaturk Wendell
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Attaturk Wendell
5 months 13 days ago

Those who did the Armenian genocide were. Duh.

joser
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joser
5 months 13 days ago

Thing is, the Cubs have been to the World Series as recently as 1945. You laugh, but that’s within living memory — and it’s more recent than for fans from Washington DC, who last saw their team in the World Series in 1933. And we won’t even talk about fans from the other Washington.

2015 Washington Nationals
Guest
2015 Washington Nationals
5 months 13 days ago

Oh, hello there!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 months 13 days ago

Man, this blanket is soggy

#6 Org DURRRRRRRRRRRRR
Guest
#6 Org DURRRRRRRRRRRRR
5 months 13 days ago

I am also the dead horse! *Neeeeigggghhhh cough cough*

Aaron
Guest
Aaron
5 months 13 days ago

Obviously injuries can torpedo any team, but the gap between a bottom 5 and a top 5 manager also makes something of a difference, even if it isn’t huge.

2015 Fangraphs Red Sox Projection Squad
Guest
2015 Fangraphs Red Sox Projection Squad
5 months 13 days ago

Don’t forget us!

Tom
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Tom
5 months 13 days ago

Who had the highest projection last year? Was it the Nationals? Or maybe the Dodgers?

kdl
Guest
kdl
5 months 13 days ago

Why are you ready this site, if you care so little for how all this works?

ps- All the non-stats people were talking about the Nats and Dodgers, too. So, other than hindsight, which is the “metric” most often used by folks like you, there isn’t really a more reliable way for guessing the future.

Darrel
Guest
Darrel
5 months 13 days ago

“Why are you on this site”

Tone back the elitism there big fella- the person is likely to here to express his/her opinion. You may not agree with it, and the authors may not either, but this isn’t a “safe zone” where only your beliefs are allowed. Why are YOU on this site? Because you were here first? Because you agree with the authors?

K
Guest
K
5 months 13 days ago

the person is likely here to express his/her opinion

That’s a really bizarre reason to go to a site like this.

Further, nothing he said suggested contrary opinions were disallowed.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 months 13 days ago

I don’t think he was even expressing an opinion, just asking an honest question. Apologies for some of the numbnuts around these parts, it was the Nats who were projected for the best record in 2015.

kdl
Guest
kdl
5 months 13 days ago

It’s not elitism, it’s a genuine question.

If you don’t believe in projections. If you don’t care that outliers are a thing. If you don’t care to understand that the Dodgers weren’t actually a failure…why are you here?

You will disagree with every article. And learn nothing, while contributing nothing, Why are you here?

It was a genuine question.

I’m not asking for a “safe zone”. I am legitimately curious what folks like Tom get out of making comments like his.

This site used be filled with comments of substance. Geniune and well-thought out opinions backed up by evidence. Now it’s filled with folks like this…who disagree with everything without a shred of evidence…who then whine when someone calls out the vacuity of their comment.

I LIKED that people could express contrary opinions and be taken seriously. Not dismissed simply for disagreeing. But thats not what we have anymore.
It’s circus of “Nationals 2015: Projection Champions” trolling.
I guess my mistake was responding.
But it doesn’t make me any less disappointed the trolls have found this littel corner of the internt, and are slowly taking over.

Blue
Guest
Blue
5 months 13 days ago

Yeah, all of the historical projections are right under the “Projections” tab…oh wait, that’s right. They are in the “Memory Hole” tab.

kdl
Guest
kdl
5 months 13 days ago

It’s strains credulity that this ‘novice’ commenter would just happen to guess the two most maligned “projection champs” on pure coincidence. And word their comment in a traditionally snarky question form.

But you’re right. I’m probably the one misreading the original comment.

dtpollitt
Member
Member
dtpollitt
5 months 13 days ago

I think the most likely blips in the system are (1) Arrieta soreness / tiredness, (2) Bryant’s peripherals catching up to him, (3) Schwarber & Soler being real bad on defense. I feel like the Cubs have insulated themselves for Arrieta with both Lackey and Warren and re-signing Cahill, and the Heyward deal gives them some lateral movement in the OF. Combine that with a possible Soler and/or Baez trade for a CF, this front office has done a very good job of incrementally raising the ceiling on wins by also reducing the variance of expected outcomes.

rjbiii
Guest
rjbiii
5 months 13 days ago

I voted for “something else” but I don’t really believe it. I’d have voted for “There isn’t one”. There just seems to be so much parity in MLB these days. And I find it difficult to separate 10 or 11 teams at the top. Steamer does, with about 10 war separating the first from the 11th team. But as you say, projections are educated guesses and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Steamer could be 10% too high on the Cubs and 10% too low on any one of the large number of teams projected for 40 WAR or so. I think that would hardly be an overly sizeable margin of error. And there is such a great spread of young talent and high-end seasoned professionals across all of those teams that I think it makes sense just to group them together at this stage.

I know the question was who is best right now and the above refers to that. But in terms of between now and the start of the season, when I look at those teams in that 40-odd WAR bracket, they all seem to have one or two positions that should be a lot easier to upgrade than the Cubs. So I only see whatever gap there is narrowing. I think it’s going to be a heck of a season!

DJAnyReason
Guest
DJAnyReason
5 months 13 days ago

I voted for someone else, but if I had 30 options instead of 2 I would probably have voted for the Cubs. Frankly, “the field” is a pretty attractive candidate – I only need one of 29 options to be better than the Cubs to be right, and while the Cubs look better than everyone else they don’t look so incredibly overwhelmingly better that it’s inconceivable someone will jump ahead.

Nino
Guest
Nino
5 months 13 days ago

I think that the Cardinals win total v. Baseruns total and the Nationals ordeal from last year really highlights this. Projections do a lovely job actually using data to project outcomes, but the actual are so vast it’s still wide open. The Rockies in 2007 played near perfect baseball for about two weeks of the regular season and there you go. This is why projections are fun to try and make and review, and why the actual season is even more entertaining.

Billy Goat Curse
Guest
Billy Goat Curse
5 months 13 days ago

I love this projection.

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 months 13 days ago

This article doesn’t mention Joe Maddon. How much WAR is he worth to this young, talented team.

dtpollitt
Member
Member
dtpollitt
5 months 13 days ago

BP Wrigleyville has a nice piece published yesterday on the worth of Chris Bosio, pitching coach. He’s been pretty darn important, too.

teufelshuffle
Guest
teufelshuffle
5 months 13 days ago

I don’t think you can name a best team in December in ANY meaningful way. So the projections like the Cubs 6 games better than second. So what? The other teams aren’t done, and the Cubs just made a bunch of big moves. Even more salient, 6 games is still well within normal error bars.

But really this is semantics. Is there are difference between saying “The Cubs seem to have the highest level of true talent as of right now given all the data we currently have available,” which is definitely true, and “The Cubs are one of, if not THE best teams in baseball,” which seems to always be said in December about a team that ends up not even making the playoffs (see: 2015 Nationals, 2014 Red Sox, 2013 Blue Jays).

Grond
Guest
Grond
5 months 13 days ago

Congratulations. You just reiterated the same caveats that were made in the piece while pretending you’re the first to mention them.

Jerry's Team
Guest
Jerry's Team
5 months 13 days ago

Congratulations to Grond. You wrote what everyone else was thinking while pretending you’re the only one to think it. Make an effort.

Turdpusher
Guest
Turdpusher
5 months 13 days ago

Congratulations to Jerry’s team. I have nothing witty and obnoxious to say.

Echo Chamber
Guest
Echo Chamber
5 months 13 days ago

Congratultions to Turdpusher. You really pushed them turds around like nobody’s business.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

The amount of pressure on the Cubs this year is going to be interesting.

They DO have the best team in baseball, and they have ADDED more, quality pieces (including the removal of such pieces from their rival).

The Cubs are dangerous when they are underdogs. They will be the exact opposite of underdogs this entire 2016 season. It will be interesting to see how they handle it.

As a Cardinals Fan, I have to comment on the Cub fans (I live in North Central, IL). Holy Shit! Will you guys chill a bit? Damn, you are acting like the 2016 World Series was just won in the off-season. Have you learned nothing in your 30+ years of being a cub fan? Seriously, not to get all Aaron Rodgers or anything, but r-e-l-a-x. I get excited, but domination of 2016 and the next 5 years is a bit too much to project for any team. Have we forgotten about the 2015 Nationals already? You have a fun, young team to and they are talented, and for once you guys have a smart GM. Your future is bright, but slow down on the foregone conclusions.

dtpollitt
Member
Member
dtpollitt
5 months 13 days ago

No one is adhering to any sort of foregone conclusions. Cubs fans definitely have the right to be excited–this is easily the most promising team we have put together in any lifetime. Coming off 97 wins, beating the 98 and 100 win teams, and making it to the NLCS, we have improved.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

No one is? Seriously? No One?

I have never, and will never, say anyone should not be proud or excited of their quality team. But, the over the top assumptions (especially given the team’s history, and the recent history of the 2015 Nationals), should provide some caution.

It’s one thing when you are the year’s pleasant surprise and everyone is rooting for you as the underdog. It’s another thing when you’re the heavy favorite and everyone (including new bandwagon fans) have astronomical expectations that they expect you to meet from Opening Day through the end.

Joel
Guest
Joel
5 months 13 days ago

As a lifetime Cubs fan I admit to being overly excited.

This (on paper) is the best team we have had in my lifetime. It is deep and without a glaring weakness. It has a manager and front office that I trust. It has a deep farm system to draw/ trade from.

Most importantly it has players that I enjoy watching.

Nothing is ever decided in December, but after so many hopeless off seasons, I for one am going to enjoy this for as long as it lasts.

cornflake5000
Guest
cornflake5000
5 months 13 days ago

Honestly, I’m not sure if excited it the right word for me. Since Theo has taken over, he has rebuilt the organization from the top down. This team still shares the history, but it’s a completely different organization. Obviously even being considered the favorite, there’s only about a 15% chance of them winning any given year. I do feel confident in saying if they’re ever going to win, the next 5 years or so will probably be their best chance in my lifetime. I get it that favorites don’t always win. But I won’t be surprised in the least if they win multiple WS over the next few years. Somebody has to win, and I think Jed and Theo have given the Cubs the best chance. There are other great organizations aiming for the same thing. There could be injuries, players busting, etc. No one knows, but if you look at *this* team right now, ignore the history, focus on the present… yes, Cubs fans should feel confident.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

I agree with both of you guys.

[1] The Cubs team is fun to watch.

[2] The organization is in a different place than it has been. But, didn’t we think the same thing during the Dallas Green years when he pillaged the Phillies after his move to Chicago?

The difference in now and then is leaguewide, teams understand the monetary value of young players over veterans (of similar productions).

All teams are emphasizing young talent.

Spencer
Guest
Spencer
5 months 13 days ago

I’m a Cardinals fan who completely respects the Cubs rebuild and believes my favorite team is no longer the best team in the Central. That said, the fans don’t really understand what they’re in for. The longer your team succeeds, the less satisfied you are with anything that doesn’t end in a championship, and the happier the rest of the world is to see you fail. The Cubs are the toast of baseball right now, but after a few years of great performance and that long-time World Series drought coming to an end, nobody outside of Chicago will be rooting for you. It’s better to be that up-and-coming team everyone loves, because the greed and resentment sets in once the ultimate goal is reached. Your success will doom you all, Cubs fans. You’re all doomed. Doomed.

Gary Dilbaitis
Guest
Gary Dilbaitis
5 months 11 days ago

I was born the year after the Cubs played in their last WS, so doom me, doom me, doom me, please Cubs doom me!

Sabertooth
Guest
Sabertooth
5 months 13 days ago

Fun fact: in 2016, 1908 will be as close to John Adams’ Presidency as it is to the present.

Ivan Grushenko
Guest
Ivan Grushenko
5 months 13 days ago

They also have lots of money and prospects to improve midseason, strong backups in Baez and Coghlan, and Theo. They look as dominant as the Nationals did last December.

Hollywood Hills
Guest
5 months 13 days ago

Soler is going to win an MVP award.

Schwarber belongs behind the plate. Piazza couldn’t catch either, but he did for most of his brilliant HOF worthy career. Schwarber can win an MVP trophy as a catcher as well.

Kris Bryant? Cause to worry. Bryant struck out a lot more in 2015 than Ryan Howard did, in fact Bryant almost matched Howard’s worst SO percentage of his career.

senor_mike
Guest
senor_mike
5 months 13 days ago

There is strong reason to believe that Piazza was a well above-average pitch framer, blocker and caller.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5274
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20596
http://www.billjamesonline.com/should_mike_piazza_be_in_the_hall_of_fame_/%20

I strongly suspect that is why baseball put up with his ‘bad defense’ behind the plate as long as they did. Those would be 3 pretty big hills for Schwarber to climb. Not impossible of course, it just strikes me as quite difficult.

stevenam
Guest
stevenam
5 months 13 days ago

I agree 100%. Piazza’s poor throwing deceived many into believing that he was a poor defensive catcher overall. He wasn’t. He was quite good with that one notable exception. Oh, and he was the best hitting catcher ever. Hall of Fame.

Schwarber looks like a little leaguer in the field. He’s a disaster out there in every position he’s ever played.

JABO on FOX
Guest
JABO on FOX
5 months 13 days ago

-3.4 Runs in LF = Disaster… Ok. Please don’t look at Matt Kemp.

Deelron
Member
Deelron
5 months 13 days ago

No kidding, Piazza’s WRC+ is essentially tied with Buster Posey’s career so far, but includes his decline phase. Just amazing.

Stan
Guest
Stan
5 months 13 days ago

Jorge Soler has pretty well shown that he’s just a great athlete with a bad attitude and therefore a mediocre player. His only MVP will come in Japan. There’s a reason the Cubs are shopping him.

I can't believe I upvoted this guy
Guest
I can't believe I upvoted this guy
5 months 13 days ago

Soler comment is a stretch, but not a crazy one with his big upside. Could be anything from Juan Gonzalez to Jeff Francoeur.

Schwarber might actually cause less harm catching than playing anywhere in the OF. And a catcher who can hit like he can would be a coup.

Bryant should succeed in spite of a high K rate, having a good number of seasons like 2015. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Schwarber ends up the better hitter long-term.

Only Glove, No Love
Guest
Only Glove, No Love
5 months 13 days ago

I just do not know why everyone thinks the super high sw strike rate can work all of a sudden and generate consistent elite results?

You’ve got what? Sosa at 15% and then nothing elite until Thome at 12.2% and bryant is at +16%?

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=5&season=2015&month=0&season1=1871&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=11,d&page=1_30

I guess I am a killjoy hater but all I see is Russell Branyan redux…

state the obvious
Guest
state the obvious
5 months 12 days ago

Russell Branyan: 14 seasons, 12 fWAR

Kris Bryant: 1 season, 6.5 fWAR

Not the same.

Fork
Guest
5 months 13 days ago

This is all fine and good, and there’s no denying the level and depth of talent on this team.

But the Cubs do offer a study in all the different ways the wheels can come off the wagon.

baseballfan123
Guest
baseballfan123
5 months 13 days ago

Last time I checked the “best team in baseball” is the one that wins the most games; or for some people if you win the world series (but that’s a different debate). Sure the cubs look really good on paper but let’s not get crazy, some of their young players might regress, Heyward could have a bad year, players get hurt all the time. I will say this though… they have a good outlook for the next few years

baseballfan123
Guest
baseballfan123
5 months 13 days ago

Also, remember when the Red Sox were the best team in baseball at this time last year? How did that work out?

Grond
Guest
Grond
5 months 13 days ago

So, using this logic, no team should ever try to become as good as possible because if they get too good it never works out. Or something.

Maybe just check your silly anti-Cubs bias, take this piece for what it is, stating the painfully obvious (you may not like it but the Cubs appear to be very good right now, sorry if you can’t comprehend that) and move on. The piece made it clear this promises nothing. And even if the Cubs blast their way through the NL next year, they can just as easily get booted out of the postseason by any other team that makes it. So take comfort there.

K
Guest
K
5 months 13 days ago

He probably does remember that, since he mentioned it in the article you didn’t read but commented on as if you had.

BigChief
Guest
BigChief
5 months 13 days ago

Are the cubs players more likely to underperfomr or get injured? And if that is the case, who do you think will be the better team.

In December, when trying to predict who will be the best baseball team, it is always correct to assume the field will produce a better team. That doesn’t mean that the Cubs are not the most likely to be the best team.

Think of it like rolling a pair of Dice. Someone could say that 7 is the most likely outcome of the dice roll. Then you would argue, that it’s more likely that one of the other numbers will be rolled and you would be absolutely right. But that isn’t really an argument against the number 7 as the best option, the most likely outcome is still a 7, even if a 7 is only rolled 1/6 of the time.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

Are the cubs players more likely to underperfomr or get injured?

Wasn’t there research done on this site that explained which teams had under-performed the most (Cubs) and which teams had over-performed the most (Angels), and explained why.

IIRC, the reason for the Cubs were injuries and the reason for the Angels was basically MIke Trout. I think it examined the last 5 years.

So, the answer might be yes. =)

blue fountain
Guest
blue fountain
5 months 13 days ago

Looks like most of us are voting for the Cubs. 2016 really does feel like the year it will all come together for them. It is amazing they’ve been able to acquire Heyward, Bryant, Russell, and Schwarber in time for them to be productive MLB players while Rizzo is in his prime and Arrieta is breaking out.

All of this of course will make it even more painful for Cubs fans if it doesn’t come together next year. If they get bounced in the NLDS, we may need a special grief forum.

stevenam
Guest
stevenam
5 months 13 days ago

There’s probably a cream that can help Arrieta with his break out.

Also, “IF it doesn’t come together”? Have you not been watching for the past 100+ years? Spoiler alert; we all know how this ends for the North siders.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 months 13 days ago

Neutral math says it’s much more likely for the Cubs 2016 season to end in a lost playoff series than any other outcome.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

2016 really does feel like the year it will all come together for them.

I’m 42 and have heard this same sentence many times before. You could literally replace 2016 with 5 or so other years and have just as accurate of a statement.

All of this of course will make it even more painful for Cubs fans if it doesn’t come together next year.

1984 was especially painful. If 2003 didn’t kill cubs fans and their optimism, nothing will. Seriously, one game to win to go to the WS and your two best pitchers coming in g6 and g7.

Seriously, what are the odds that they lose those two games. The answer is rationale for the Cubs history.

cornflake5000
Guest
cornflake5000
5 months 13 days ago

I’m 40… 2003 killed a part of me. 2007 & 2008 were nice, but it wasn’t the same… they felt patchwork. 2003 felt like the beginning of something. I joined a group of guys and bought season tickets. As the season wore on, I could feel the excitement returning to the park. The organization is in such a different place now. I don’t believe in curses, but this group may not win, but I’ve never seen them have a better chance.

Mark Prior's Calves
Guest
Mark Prior's Calves
5 months 13 days ago

Amazingly, we’re 55 responses in and a text search of the page content yields one instance of the word “curse”, one “goat”, and two uses of “1908.” Also: bonus points for the the Ottoman Empire reference, having dissolved in 1923.

This furthers my theory that Fangraphs.com is the only website on the entirety of the internet where reading the user comments is not only a tolerable activity, but a thoroughly enjoyable one.

You guys are the best.

stevenam
Guest
stevenam
5 months 13 days ago

Also, notable for the relative, though sadly not absolute, dearth of the phrase “could of”. Nails. On. Chalkboard.

Mark Prior's Calves
Guest
Mark Prior's Calves
5 months 13 days ago

Ditto for “I could care less”, “supposebly”, “inneresting”, and “for all intensive purposes” utterances. Also, save for a theoretical scenario involving an infinite number of monkeys, the discussions seem to operate outside the confines of Godwin’s Law.

I mean it, you guys are the best.

Killjoy was here
Guest
Killjoy was here
5 months 13 days ago

For all in tents and porpoises, Twitter has ruined America’s ability to grammar properly.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
5 months 13 days ago

Places where I read the comments:

1. FanGraphs
1.5. Banknotes Industries (which is basically the same readership as FanGraphs)
2. The AV Club
3. there is no #3

BigChief
Guest
BigChief
5 months 13 days ago

1.75 Pornhub (which is basically the same readership as Banknotes Industries)

Tony Kornheiser
Guest
Tony Kornheiser
5 months 13 days ago

FanGraphs?! We’re all gonna go dateless!

stevenam
Guest
stevenam
5 months 13 days ago

So do we think the ’16 Cubbies are as good as the ’15 Nats were (supposed to be)? Yeah, how’d that work out for them.

IMW
Guest
IMW
5 months 13 days ago

There you have it folks! Might as well just never look at another projection ever again!

Basic math
Guest
Basic math
5 months 13 days ago

One 2 standard deviation outcome happening does not make another happening more likely. Especially when they are independent probabilities.

kdl
Guest
kdl
5 months 13 days ago

I don’t understand the “logic” here.

IMW is simply pointing out that we should probably take the projections at face value. The fact that they “failed” last year, does not mean they will fail again. I’m not sure how you’re reading this as an example of the gambler’s fallacy.

Dave T
Member
Dave T
5 months 13 days ago

I agree with your point as a matter of math, but have any of these systems been churning out projections long enough for us to be sure that the Nationals in 2015 was really a 2 standard deviation outcome?

here goes nothing
Guest
here goes nothing
5 months 13 days ago

If you sum WAR, the Cubs look great. But I think the Dodgers get back a bit of that edge with depth — van Slyke and the back of the rotation in particular. Always fun for me (not highly analytical!) to go position by position.

C — Montero Gonzalez — CHC 1 LAD 1
2b — Zobrist > Utley/Hernandez — CHC 2 LAD 1
ss — Russell = Seager — CHC 2 LAD 1
3b — Bryant > Turner — CHC 3 LAD 1
rf — Soler Pederson — CHC 4 LAD 2
lf — Schwarber < Ethier/van Slyke — CHC 4 LAD 3 (somewhat controversial but they need credit for van Slyke depth somewhere)

sp 1 — Arrieta Wood — CHC 5 LAD 3
sp 5 — Hammel = Ryu — CHC 5 LAD 3
sp 6+ — Wood, ??? < Bolsinger, Frias, Lee, Urias, Montas — CHC 5 LAD 4
pen — whatever

DoPeopleReadBeforeTheyComment
Guest
DoPeopleReadBeforeTheyComment
5 months 13 days ago

It’s cool that you just leave out Coghlan, who was better than Van Slyke and Baez in this. Where are SPs 2-4?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 months 13 days ago

Neither team is using starters 2-4 this year. Just their ace, then their #5, then back to the ace. 81 starts apiece.

(I mean, duh!)

JayT
Guest
JayT
5 months 13 days ago

Why do you leave out 1B, CF, and SP2? Those are all positions the Cubs have moderate to large advantages.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

Why are you guys legitimately responding to a response that doesn’t include the metrics we value as important, but rather just goes +1 to the team with the alleged better player at each position.

Why compile projected WAR, when you could just go C vs. C, 1B vs. 1B, for a winner take all hypothetical series?

It’s not like a player at a position could be 2 or 3 times more valuable than their counterpart on the other team or anything.

Keith Murdoch
Guest
Keith Murdoch
5 months 13 days ago

It is clear they are the best team in baseball. But here is the real question we need to be asking:

Is it good for baseball if they are the best team in baseball?

Damaso
Member
Damaso
5 months 13 days ago

imo fangraphs should reassess its relationship with STEAMER. not necessarily for its cubs projections, mind you.

as for the cubs, their kids all sported some mighty high babips and K% last year. that might be cause for concern.

kdl
Guest
kdl
5 months 13 days ago

I might be wrong.
But isn’t the relationship…Steamer compiles their projections first/fastest?

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

People picking the Cubs to win at this stage should go back and look at the discussion during the NLCS last year, when the Cubs were completely destroyed by a Mets team which wasn’t even that good and other than the Cubs series wasn’t playing that well (won 90 games, barely made it past LA, got stomped by KC). There were endless explanations (can’t handle power pitching, they’re cursed, Arrieta ran out of gas) but none of them made the Cubs good. Remember the whole thing about how contact teams do well in the playoffs while the Cubs hitters had the highest K% in baseball (24.5%) by 1.6%? And their pitchers had the highest LD% in baseball and the 3rd lowest IFFB%, but somehow the 7th lowest BABIP, doesn’t that sound just a little bit lucky?

Tony
Guest
Tony
5 months 13 days ago

Yes lets let a 4 game sample take precidence over the other 167 games they played, in which they went 101-66.

Also I agree with your concerns about their peripherals, but the Cubs have addressed this in all of their offsesaon moves. Heyward and Zobrist are possibly the 2 best contact hitters in the FA class and Lackey is in the top 3rd of qualified starters last year in LD%.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

Well, I hate to be that guy. But, last year my team won the most regular season games in both leagues.

I’m not bragging about it all, because the same team fared poorly in a 5-game sample. Injuries aside, it still sucks.

I don’t think many fans really remember regular season team performance, but really remember playoffs.

Not saying they are predictive … but similar problems could arise. The caveat would be that not many teams run 3 starters out there throwing upper 90s for the whole damn game. So, that’s like teams trying to come up with the sam,e game plan without having the same talent.

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

The main thing isn’t the 4 game sample, the main thing is the arguments which were made at the time about why the Cubs aren’t built to win in the postseason (that’s why I wrote ‘go back and look at the discussion during the NLCS last year’): (1) The argument that low-contact teams like the Cubs don’t do well in the postseason however well they may do in the regular season–that argument looked and looks very strong, and the Cubs are undeniably a very low-contact team, (2) the argument that teams which have trouble with power pitching are going to generally have trouble in the postseason when all the pitchers are throwing harder and there are generally more power pitchers left–also that argument looked and looks very good and also the Cubs have undeniably had particular problems with power pitching, and (3) The argument that Arrieta just isn’t built to carry a team through the regular season and playoffs like for example a Bumgarner can–he’d never pitched more than 156.2 innings in a season before and he just looked tired at the end. All of these arguments look pretty convincing. Do you have a problem with any of them?

Only Glove, No Love
Guest
Only Glove, No Love
5 months 13 days ago

I agree with all your points and don’t think the Cubs fully addressed them yet and still think the Cubs are the BTIB (heh) by a sig margin. And that is with the lack of a CF as well.

Joseph
Guest
Joseph
5 months 13 days ago

The evidence for those first two points is very, very thin. Pretty much entirely anecdotal from fans of teams who happen to have recently won a playoff series in a certain way. The fuller studies on what types of teams win in the postseason all point to the same conclusion: there’s really not much of a difference. There doesn’t seem to be any particular way to build a team that wins in the postseason.

Quick quiz: Without looking, which team struck out more in that NLCS?

The Mets didn’t win because Power Pitching Beats Power Hitting. They won because in four baseball games, anything can happen, including one team getting an extremely high BABIP, HR/FB ratio and good sequencing, and another team getting the opposite.

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

Those articles aren’t by fans, they’re by serious analysts. Have you even bothered to read those articles? The argument isn’t that power pitching beats power hitting, the argument is that (1) the Cubs were STATISTICALLY bad against power pitchers, (2) pitchers STATISTICALLY generally throw faster in the postseason than in the regular season, and (3) power pitchers in general STATISTICALLY make it to the postseason more. Therefore, considering that the discussion here is about whether the Cubs are STATISTICALLY the best team in baseball (on the assumption that this means ‘most likely to win the World Series’), these statistics have to be taken very seriously. Of course, as you say, anything can happen in a short series, but the discussion here is about which team STATISTICALLY is the best.

Joseph
Guest
Joseph
5 months 13 days ago

I did read the articles. Demonstrating a small effect of a certain type of pitching against a certain type of offense is not particularly close to proving that it moves the needle more than an imperceptible amount in a 7-game series.

These are tiny, tiny differences.

Walter
Guest
Walter
5 months 13 days ago

John, no one is saying those things don’t matter, its just that they don’t matter *much*. You’re talking about moving the ledger fractions of a percent. The best team only wins a series maybe 60% of the time. If that team has all the right playoff-magic-qualities maybe it would be 61%.

That’s what we know know now anyway. Maybe some FOs know more than that, but it seems unlikely as randomness in a short series is still going to be a dominating factor. So attempting to build a team for the playoffs is most just stupid. Getting there is far more important and more predictable.

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

About the Cubs additions, they also lost Castro, who had their second lowest K%, which practically cancels one of the additions, and Lackey’s Hard% of 30.1% was #60 out of 78 qualifying pitchers (and 31/78 for LD%, not much above average, I’m not sure where you got ‘top 3rd’).

David K
Guest
David K
5 months 13 days ago

“Cubs were completely destroyed by a Mets team which wasn’t even that good and other than the Cubs series wasn’t playing that well (won 90 games, barely made it past LA, got stomped by KC). ”

The Dodgers are a pretty good team, and they had Kershaw/Greinke at the top of the rotation, and the Mets still beat them, so I wouldn’t say that “barely making it past LA” is an indictment of that accomplishment. Also, they didn’t exactly get “stomped” by KC, except for one game. They were in all of the others and easily should have won two of them.

So I wouldn’t say that the Cubs losing to the Mets was a big strike against the Cubs, not to mention the small sample of 4 games as others pointed out.

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

My point was that it wasn’t exactly like the Mets were on fire, like for example the Royals were until the World Series in 2014.

IsIt2015Yet?!
Guest
IsIt2015Yet?!
5 months 13 days ago

Murphy was.

Carwin
Guest
Carwin
5 months 13 days ago

7 of the top 9 teams in the projections are in the NL! Yowzer.

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

Something is clearly wrong with the league adjustment. The AL won 56% of the games between the leagues last year. And the World Series and the All-Star game for that matter.

joser
Guest
joser
5 months 13 days ago

Look at the bottom of the leaderboards for your answer — those teams have to play interleague also.

Ryan Brock
Member
Member
5 months 13 days ago

How about just a separate adjustment for the NL East?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 months 13 days ago

Let’s not use the All-Star game, a 9-inning quasi-exhibition, as evidence of anything .

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

I was joking.

joser
Guest
joser
5 months 13 days ago

And 7 of the bottom 8, including all of the bottom 5. The good is very good, but the bad is very bad. This is what is preventing us from reading a lot of “Is the balance swinging back to the NL being the better league?” articles…

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 13 days ago

This is why the 3 best teams in the NL were all in the same division.

joser
Guest
joser
5 months 13 days ago

When they get to beat up on those teams regularly, yeah, right, “best”

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
5 months 13 days ago

yea i would probably think the Cubs are the preseason favorites too. I do think folks are sleeping on the Blue Jays a bit though. while they are not as good as the team that ended their season in the ALCS as probably the best team in baseball by a rather significant margin, they are vastly improved over the team that started last season.

Consider that they will in all likelihood get significantly more starts from Stroman than they got from he and Price combined last year, Tulo vs Reyes, more playing time from Devon Travis, Ben Revere at the bare minimum in LF as opposed to the Colabello/Valencia/Carrera abomination they ran out for the first half of last season, also the potential for Michael Saunders and/or Dalton Pompey to surpass Revere’s production. The projections are also sleeping on RA Dickey (as they always do) and likely on Marco Estrada as well if i had to bet.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 months 13 days ago

Mikey Saunders will have a solid 12 AB before he breaks like fine china. That can’t be underestimated.

Joe Jonas
Guest
Joe Jonas
5 months 13 days ago

I’m a huge Cards fan and there’s just no denying that the Cubs are the best team in baseball and might be for the foreseeable future. I’m not happy with this brave new world, but that’s where we are.

vince
Guest
vince
5 months 13 days ago

I can remember a service time debate last year, where the key argument was that the Cubs were NOT a contender and a few games don’t matter. Incredible what a year can do to perception!

szielinski
Member
Member
szielinski
5 months 13 days ago

Are the Cubs “the best team in baseball”? It sure looks that way. They were great last season and appear to have gotten better this off season. And their key competitors look weaker.

How is this best team ‘title’ achieved? The Cubs became the best team in baseball when someone or a group used an evaluation method or methods and subsequently judged the Cubs better than the other teams. There can and are be numerous evaluations, and their conclusions need not agree. But they all seek the same end. Once ST begins, the baseball version of the “fog or war” confirms or denies these “best team” judgments. The season, actual game play, makes all “best team” judgments irrelevant because many seasons fail to identify with strong confidence the best team in baseball. The reason: Every season merely produces a last team standing once the league completes its months-long, multi-stage tournament. The processes which produce the end-of-season result are just too complex to model.

Determining the “best team” begins with a thought experiment and ends with a prediction. That’s the best we can achieve.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fog_of_war
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tournament#Multi-stage_tournaments
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prediction

Only Glove, No Love
Guest
Only Glove, No Love
5 months 13 days ago

How does a signing bonus work per the luxury tax?

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

I wasn’t claiming that a few games matter so much. I was claiming that there is a good deal of evidence that the Cubs aren’t built for postseason success, and there were a lot of articles discussing this around the time that the Mets swept them. I tried to post the sites for some of those articles above but it’s ‘awaiting moderation’ for some reason. Just do google searches for ‘postseason velocity’, ‘playoff contact’, ‘contact Cubs’, and ‘Arrieta tired’ and you should be able to find them.

Radermecher
Member
Radermecher
5 months 13 days ago

I have the Nationals taking it ALL,in 2015.Should be and NL powerhouse for years to come.Thats a LOCK!

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

I assume you’re joking.

mike sixel
Guest
mike sixel
5 months 13 days ago

I don’t think the question is “would you bet on the field or the Cubs”. It is, “which one team is the best right now”.

It is hard to argue against the Cubs. NO PLACE does the author suggest that is any kind of guarantee of winning the WS or the most games.

I really wish statistics was a required HS and college class, way more useful in the world than calculus……

John
Guest
John
5 months 13 days ago

I would in fact argue that the Cubs are not the most likely team to win the World Series, for the reasons I mentioned before (although they may be the most likely team to win the most games in the regular season). I’d put the Royals, Giants, and Red Sox ahead of them.

Dave T
Member
Dave T
5 months 13 days ago

I agree that the Cubs are the best team in baseball right now. If Jeff asked a slightly different question, however – “What team will have the best regular season record in 2016?” – I would take the field over the Cubs without hesitating.

The reason is the nature of the error bars in projections, which is why I really wish that Fangraphs would present team win projections as more than just a point estimate. Instead, show something like the range of the 25th percentile projection to 75th percentile projection for each team.

By the time we get to team projections, we’re stacking up three projections that each have error bars.

First, individual player variation, simply performing better or worse than forecast.

Second, injuries that lead to loss of time with backups filling in. There’s presumably some correlation with #1, if injured players come back and then have a period of time where they’re less effective than they’d normally be.

Third, the range of variation as team WAR gets translated to runs and runs get translated to team wins. These include sequencing for the both the team and its opponents and possible variation (good or bad) in record in close games.

So we’re stacking up three sets of projections/assumptions that all have uncertainty around them amounting to at least several wins. Quantifying just what a reasonable range of uncertainty is around each projection would help all of us understand why we shouldn’t be so surprised when a team performs better or worse than its projection.

Treaty of Zoilo Versalles
Guest
Treaty of Zoilo Versalles
5 months 13 days ago

From 1990-2014 a total of 29 teams improved by 20+ wins from one year to the next. On average they declined by 13 wins the following season.

The Cubs improved by 24 games from 2014 to 2015. So my initial instinct would be to project them at 97-13, or 84 wins for 2016.

But then they added Lackey, replaced Castro with Zobrist, and acquired Heyward. So there’s a 1-2 win rotation upgrade, another game from the Zobrist move, and from 2015 Fowler to 2016 Heyward would be 2-3 wins. So we’re at 4-6 wins.

Add those 4-6 wins to 84 and you have 88-90 wins. I don’t think there’s a team I would project more highly than that right now — but I also think the Cubs are highly unlikely to win their division by 8-10 games, or whatever the Steamer forecast implies. (If I could get Pitt. at 3-1 or St. Louis at 2-1, I’d much rather take one of those to win the N.L. Central, rather than betting on the Cubs even-up.)

Johnston
Member
Member
Johnston
5 months 13 days ago

2016 is an even year, therefore I predict a Giants World Series victory. Science!

Mcgaffer
Guest
Mcgaffer
5 months 13 days ago

I’m as excited as anyone, but what were the projections for the 04 team after making it to the NLCS? They added an old maddux to a rotation of Prior, wood, clement, and zambrano not to mention trading choi for Derek Lee. That team seemed great too, but never saw any advanced metrics to confirm it…..

MG
Guest
MG
5 months 13 days ago

Cubs’ fans are poised to become as insufferable as the fans of ‘Baseball Heaven.’

Hopeful Cubs fan
Guest
Hopeful Cubs fan
5 months 12 days ago

Come on, man. Our team hasn’t won a Workd Series. The ghosts of great Cubs teams past loom and the sting of utter destruction in the 2015 NLCS still exists. I don’t know any fellow Cubs fan who in his or her right mind expects this team to do anything. They have some great players and they could do amazing things. Can you at least wait until the team wins a World Series before you start shitting on us for enjoying the fact that we finally have watchable baseball for the firs time in nearly a decade?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 12 days ago

The only thing that bothers me is this idea that Cardinal fans are the ones that keep the “baseball Heaven” or “Cardinal Way” things going. I can’t watch a Cardinal baseball game without the broadcasters mentioning that StL is the best baseball city in America or that their fans are among the most passionate, loyal, and intelligent. Granted, I only have time to watch a handful of games per year, but it’s said every time.

So, it’s players and former players that tout it as such a great place to play.

It’s not like cardinal fans (despite the perception) bring it up in every conversation and whatnot.

Whatever the label or catchphrase is for a successful and enjoyable place to watch and play a baseball … St. Louis has earned it. So, all the other fans of other teams can y’know win 11 championships, be consistently successful, have a well run organization and then just take the title from StL and stop whining about it. I get tired of comments disparaging the fans anytime we talk about our team. We’re good. We’ve been good for awhile. There’s often something interesting to talk about it. Get over it.

Note: Message except for Yankee fans. We all know your story and accolades. Feel free to mock the Cardinals.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 months 12 days ago

And by “Cardinal baseball Game”, I mean a national broadcast. I don;t get local StL stations.

Emile "Stalebread" Lacoume
Guest
Emile "Stalebread" Lacoume
5 months 12 days ago

Welcome to the Twitter Age, Circle. Irrational, vindictive, envious and uber snarky.

burritooverdose
Guest
burritooverdose
5 months 12 days ago

the thing that sticks out to me right now is that the red sox are projected third. huge sox fan, but holy shit have i learned my lesson about getting hopeful based on projections.

Ray
Guest
Ray
5 months 12 days ago

Talk to me if they ever win the World Series.

Cubs Related
Guest
5 months 12 days ago

With all the Cubs rumors about trading Soler+ for a starting pitch, I think I’m leaning towards keeping Soler for the reasons you brought up, Jeff. The WAR projection, though not perfect, is not only high but also seems confident. Sure, KB, Schwarber, etc. could regress and the contact rates are somewhat disconcerting, but the signed free agents, to me, makes the error bar on the overall win projection much smaller. That’s why I prefer throwing Soler out in RF and Heyward in CF.

BS Detector
Guest
BS Detector
5 months 12 days ago

It’s so entertaining how insecure non-Cub fans are. Why are you so threatened? So far on paper, the Cubs do look the best, but your reactions are as if by stating this, your team is immediately eliminated for the season. Grown men whining. So sad, but seriously entertaining.

Feral Farrell
Guest
Feral Farrell
5 months 12 days ago

If they were to play the Mets tomorrow in a 7 game series, I’d have to take NY. Does that make them a better team than the Cubs right now? Well, yes, yes it does.

Nats Fan
Guest
Nats Fan
5 months 12 days ago

Cubs will be tough this season for sure!

Tust but Verify
Guest
Tust but Verify
5 months 12 days ago

The 3rd best team in baseball in 2015 made big acquisitions and (on paper) improvements heading into the 2016 season. The teams above them have not. It doesn’t take a baseball rocket scientist to project the Cubs as the 2016 best team in baseball.
In December of 2016 we can all reconvene to either discuss the amazing accuracy or blatant failures of the SWAG of this article and author. Okay…so maybe I oversimplify by calling it a guess that the Cubs will be the best team in baseball in 2016, because clearly, there was a lot of cyphering and computer assisted studies that went into this study. As a life-long Cub fan I can only hope it’s true. But, as a life-long Cub fan, I also remain a little skeptical (don’t know why?). I like what Theo has done. I like the direction they are headed. In short…I like winning. Keep it up!

Radermecher
Member
Radermecher
5 months 12 days ago

Looks like the cubbies should win about 150 games next year.

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