Thursday, December 27, 2012

Projecting the 2013 Cubs, Version 2.0

I was going to do 1.1, 1.2, etc., but the Cubs latest moves are so big that they warrant a whole new release.

First, they agreed to terms with swingman Carlos Villanueva, a trendy sleeper SP pick who may get the traditional AL East to NL Central boost.

There's some reason to be skeptical of Villanueva. I don't think a guy who succeeds in 120 innings should be automatically penciled in for 190 at the same rate. When he gets tired, which he frequently does as a starter when he spends a long period of time in the rotation, he starts to leave balls up and out over the plate with predictably bad consequences.

But early indications are that he will be used in a true swingman role, and that's a role I like him in a lot. If he can give the Cubs another 120 innings like his recent seasons, maybe even bumping that up to 140 with some extra starts, he's got a ton of value. He is a bit of a fly ball pitcher, so beware on the days when the wind is blowing out.

I think Fangraphs did a great job of breaking down Villlanueva's value

The even bigger move was the signing of starting pitcher Edwin Jackson.

Jackson is the kind of player who tends to provoke the following debate.

Fan 1: What's so great about him, he's barely above average?

Fan 2: Look at how much playing time he can soak up being a little above average!

Averageness has value, and a little above-averageness even more. When you've got a team that gave out as many starts to sub-replacement pitchers as the 2012 Cubs did, locking in useful innings can bring about massive improvement. And even more importantly, the 2014+ Cubs had essentially Samardzija and Wood penciled into their rotation, and that's too thin.

If they plan to be competitive in a medium-term timeframe, 2014-16, they absolutely had to pick up a starting pitcher for that period this offseason. Waiting for future offseasons to try to fill in 3/5ths or more of a rotation was going to be a fool's game, especially with the starting pitching market looking thinner each year.

Now, the roster is starting to pile up a little bit of inefficiency. We've got two spare starting pitchers and we're short one or two starting-quality outfielders. There may well be a trade coming, but even if not, I can't blame the Cubs for wanting to be safe on that front after having lost several seasons in recent years to pitcher attrition (albeit not all under this regime).

Their pitching staff is pretty fascinating to me right now. If we keep the team intact and don't hit a horrible patch of negative variance, we should be able to just throw waves and waves of average-plus pitchers at teams

OK, the projection

(Sappelt/Campana) (1.0) 
(Various backups 0)

No change 

Stewart(0.0)/Castro (4.0)/Barney(2.0)/Rizzo(4.0) 
(Various backups -1.0)

No change

(Navarro 0.0)
(Various 0.0)

No change

Starting pitching
Garza(2.0)/Samardzija(2.5)/Jackson 2.5/Baker(1.0)/Feldman(0.5) (Wood 1.0) 
(Various spot starters 0.5)


  • Picking out five starters from this bunch is going to be tricky. I didn't list Villanueva here just because I think Feldman was promised a starting job and Villanueva wasn't, but that can change very quickly. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Wood in the bullpen and Villanueva at No. 6 instead, or a trade, or any other number of possible situations.
  • There's definitely some wasted value here. Both Wood and Villanueva have the ability to pitch more innings than they are in line for.

Marmol/Fujikawa/Camp/Russell/Dolis/Villanueva/Rondon (3.5) (Various tag-ins, -0.5)


  • I'm starting to really like our bullpen. If we don't trade Marmol for peanuts, it could be a strength. 
  • I'm not at all sure that Rondon will make the team. I could easily see him being sent back.
  • I really like minor-league deal signee Cory Wade to pick up some useful innings this season.
  • It seems like we all said this last year and got burned, but there are some very interesting high-impact arms who could make a breakthrough in the major leagues this year. Zych, McNutt, Cabrera could all break out and become very nice late inning guys.

Total 27.5 WAR
Projected record 80-82.

1 comment:

  1. interesting to see for sure. 80-82 could very easily become 85-88 wins with some good luck and positive variance and that's a wildcard contender. Obviously im not gonna bet on it but maybe this won't be a lost season