Cubs 2010 Projections: This Is The Year?

Despite high expectations, the Cubs did not win the World Series in 2009. Despite being a top 5 offensive team with above average fielding and a top 10 pitching staff, the Cubs regressed from 97 wins in 2008 (despite having a Pythagorean Win Projection of 98) to a barely .500 83 wins in 2009.

To put this collapse in perspective, take note of the following. The Cubs had the highest run differential (Runs Scored minus Runs Allowed) in baseball in 2008, at 184. The second best run differential in 2008 belonged to the Red Sox, at 151. That's a chunky run differential, as 33 runs is approximately worth just over 3 wins. In 2009, the Cubs' run differential was an even 100. A loss of almost 8.5 wins. Of course, the loss of 84 runs is not simply a 8.5 win swing according to the Pythagorean Win Theory, which claimed the Cubs as being an 84 xWin team in 2009.

A lot of the run differential shrinkage from 2008 to 2009 can be accounted for in the injury-shortened and bad luck stricken seasons of Rich Harden, Aramis Ramirez, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. I partially examined the effects of bad luck and injury on Geovany Soto and Milton Bradley here and here. All of Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ted Lilly spent some time on the DL last year. 2010 should be a different story, as most of the team is slated to return, hopefully be healthy, and many players poised for significant rebound. 2010 CHONE WAR projections are not available for pitchers, but they are available for hitters. Using CHONE, here is a look at how the 2010 Cubs offense is projected to fair in comparison to the 2009 offense.


Last season, Cubs pitchers cost the team 3 wins. Let's assume the Cubs pitching maintains the same quality of pitching and thus there is no need to adjust the marginal pitching differential with regard to the 2010 WAR adjustment (it is already accounted for in our calculations if it is assumed to remain static).

What is clearly discernible here is that the Cubs offense is primed for a significant rebound in 2010. If the pitching staff quality and outfield defense were to remain static, the Cubs, in theory, would be in line for a 93 win season. The Cubs subtracted Rich Harden, a very good starting pitcher who underperformed last season, from the starting rotation, but because Harden struggled so mightily, replacing his 1.8 WAR season won't be very difficult (Jon Garland, for example, has not posted a WAR of less than 1.8 since 2002). Relief guys like Cotts, Gregg and Patton (who collectively cost the Cubs a win last season) also figure to be out of the mix.

I don't want to jinx it, but 2010 may be the year...if not, it's the best chance the Cubs are poised to have for a while.


The 'Bright' One said...

Despite all this luck neutral talk that goes on at this site, I am waiting for one of my sports teams to have the freakin luckiest season of all time. Like nothing can go wrong, no matter what the situation. 2008 was really close to being that type of season, if not for the playoffs.

Can Zambrano please have the luckiest 22-4 Brandon Webb type season? A 22-2 Cliff Lee Lucky season. I would not be opposed to luck at all

Sexy Rexy said...

Shocking, you made another huge assumption- the fact EVERYONE will be healthy and automatically good? First of all, Ted Lily is gonna start the year on the DL, Zambrano is still an injury risk, or maybe the team ends up injury riddled again. Or maybe not.

Plus, Im not convinced that rotation is all that good and the Cardinals will win that division and I doubt that Cubs will even contend for the Wild Card.

Adding Marlon Byrd means the team is worse and if the team is in contention D-Lee won't have a good year

I'll bet you DME that the Cubs don't even make the playoffs. Seriously, five bucks say they don't make the playoffs next year.

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

I will take that bet. Put it on the board

Anonymous said...

A complete WAR analysis (this has been done on several Cubs' blogs already) shows they're a mid-eighties win team. No good considering the Cards are closer to 90.