Sports: Can the 2015 Chicago Cubs Win 90 Games?

Chicago_Cubs2Can the 2015 Cubs win 90 games?

For avid Chicago Cubs fans, this offseason may seem like a Christmas Eve from our childhood. We don’t know what lies ahead, but it’s probably really great. The 2014 team showed signs of life, the farm system is regarded by most experts as the best in baseball, and the team has serious bank to spend on free agents during an offseason where the market is strong with their biggest need, starting pitching. Oh yeah, and Joe Maddon, one of the most respected managers in baseball just signed on to helm the dugout at Wrigley for the next five years.

But the question isn’t about can the Cubs win 90 games if they sign Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and trade for Cole Hamels (if they did, 100 wins wouldn’t be out of the question) but rather could the Cubs as presently constituted go from 89 losses in 2014 to 90 wins in 2015?

It’s not as farfetched as it may seem. In 2013, two teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians rose 93 and 94 losses respectively in 2012 to 90 plus win seasons. The Cubs, 73-89 in 2014, could follow in their footsteps. Here’s how.

To go from 16 games under 18 over is a big leap, but the Cubs are almost halfway there already. Consider that the 2014 Cubs essentially had two seasons, the first quarter and the remaining 122 games. During the first quarter the Cubs were awful; they went 13-27 and the bullpen was a mess.   They overhauled the bullpen at that point creating a trio, Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon that were the Windy City equivalent of the Kansas City Royals deservedly ballyhooed late inning trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. From the forty game marker forward, the Cubs went 60-62 the rest of the way, essentially a .500 team.

The run differential of a 90 win team is roughly plus 80 runs. How from even money do the Cubs get to plus 80? It’s fairly simple: what they won’t do is as important as what they will. For instance, the 2015 Cubs are highly unlikely to give Edwin Jackson 27 starts if his E.R.A. resembles his 2014 mark of 6.33. Also the team won’t give Travis Wood 31 starts if his E.R.A is 5.03 again. Obviously if those two rotation slots turn into Jon Lester and another elite pitcher then major change can be expected but even if those two slots go to say Erik Jokisch and Felix Dubrount, two pitchers likely to pitch around an E.R.A of 4, it would likely improve run prevention by about 85 runs.

There should be substantial improvement on offense too. More than 1440 plate appearances won’t go to placeholders like Mike Olt, Darwin Barney, Emilio Bonafacio, Junior Lake, and Nate Schierholz, all of whom posted OBP of .320 or under and didn’t hit for power.  Instead those at bats will mostly go to hot shot prospects like Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant.   Since all three are regarded among the top prospects in baseball, expect substantial improvement. And there’s a wild card, Javier Baez belongs in both categories. He was a big minus offensively in 229 plate appearances in 2014, but his resume suggests that he could be a very big positive as early as 2015.

The 2015 Cubs are a team that are essentially at .500 and about to upgrade their offense substantially via homegrown prospects and if they just weed out the bad elements of their starting rotation and replaced them with league average performers, they are likely improve their run prevention by a large margin. So the Cubs may project as a 90 win ball club even without a big name free agent signing.

But as a fan, I’d like to see the Cubs first playoff game in seven years next October started by someone like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels.

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About jmartin437

I've worked in and around the world of high end cheese for 27 years. I've been everything from a department manager who hired and fired and trained staffs to a weekend warrior who shows up ties on an apron the middle of a rush and talks to customers and cleans up the place. I enjoy it all, and I especially like my current situation conducting informal seminars about cheese at area bars and in class at the 92nd St. Y. The current schedule is always up at thejoyofcheese.blogspot.com. In addition I conduct private events that are perfect to lead off birthday parties for foodies and sommeliers and also they make great entertainment for corporate team building events and associates meetings at law firms. In addition, I've been a freelance journalist for 27 years. Currently my profiles of leading musicians and filmmakers appear in the Wall Street Journal and www.theroot.com. I also wrote about sports for the Root, and for five loooong years, which included the entirety of the Isiah Thomas Knicks era, I wrote about the NBA for the New York Sun. I enjoyed writing about basketball so much that I now do it here at rotations for free.
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2 Responses to Sports: Can the 2015 Chicago Cubs Win 90 Games?

  1. john says:

    Ninety Games? Not with the same pitching rotation that started in 2014… Only Samardzija is gone- replaced by Lester. Same guy otherwise… wood, hendricks, hammel, jackson, arrieta.

    • jmartin437 says:

      Thanks for posting. I’ve heard that argument but I don’t agree with it for a couple of reasons.
      1. The 2015 Cubs pitching staff has a similar set of guys, but in different volumes than they played in 2014. It’s a full season of Lester instead of a half season of Shark. It’s a full season of Hammel instead of half of a season of him. It’s a full season of Hendricks instead of half a season of him. And while we’re at it, my projection calls for a full season of Arietta instead of ¾ of one.
      2. That’s four pitchers right there. Wood and Jackson were more than the weak spots of the Cubs rotation last season; they were among the worst pitchers in the National League. If either pitches in spring training the way they did in 2014 regular season, neither will get the ball as a starter. Instead, Tsuyoshi Wada, (3.25 E.R.A. and 116 in E.R.A.+ in 13 starts) will get the call as the fifth starter.
      So that leaves the rotation at Lester (2.46 in 2014), Arietta (2.53), Hammel (2.98), Hendricks (2.46) and Wada (3.25). Can I offer you some Kool-Aid?

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