Spring training is just around the corner and the 2013 Cubs are set to kick off their Cactus League schedule on February 23rd. It's a split squad game and the game against the Angels will even be televised on WGN. It's not until April 1st that non-practice games will be played, but it's time to get excited. They might be better than we think.
A few weeks ago I came up with a wild ass guess of 73 wins for the Cubs. It was pretty close to the projected wins based on the CAIRO projections, which was 72. While 72-73 wins isn't like a contender, a lot of strange things can happen during the season and even teams that poor will contend from time to time. However, being the optimist on the site I thought it my job to provide a little more optimistic wild ass (optimistic) guess. It's not quite The Hope Monster kind of optimism, but it will do.
I'll start with the rotation this time as I think the rotation can actually be pretty good. It won't be great, and there is a chance it stinks, but it could be well above average.
The total WAR for the rotation here is 13.5.
Let's pencil in a few in the bullpen, but not get carried away. Most relievers are next to useless so I'm keeping that in mind.
The total bullpen WAR is 4.5 giving the Cubs a total pitching WAR of 18.
Now I'm just going to go around the infield.
- Welington Castillo and backup (Dioner Navarro, Steve Clevenger): 1.5 WAR
- Anthony Rizzo: 3.5
- Darwin Barney: 2.0
- Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena: 2.0
- Starlin Castro: 3.5
- Alfonso Soriano: 2.5
- David DeJesus: 2.0
- Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston: 2.0
That's 19.0 WAR.
The total WAR for the 2013 Cubs is 37.0. Using a .300 replacement level team, which is 48.6 wins, that would mean the Cubs win
A lot of things would have to go right for this to happen and things generally don't go right for the Cubs, but I havne't penciled anyone in for an MVP caliber season here. I think most of these are reasonable. It may not be so reasonable to expect all of them to get this, which would mean they probably all overperform to some extent. I'll admit that's not likely and I'm not suggesting you clear your schedule in October.
I'm only saying that this team could contend. They're not as bad as I previously thought. I don't believe any WAR prediction is far-fetched. I'm not asking you to believe that Scott Baker and Scott Feldman are going to be all-stars, or really even that good.
If you go bet all your money on the Cubs winning 85 or so games, you're an idiot. The flip side to this optimistic version is a team worse than we saw a year ago. But this team could contend and it's worth at least getting a little excited about as spring training nears.