Early-ish Preview of the 2023 Cubs Schedule

In Major League Baseball, Other Topics, Projections by Rice Cube19 Comments

The 2023 Cubs schedule was released last August in the time before RC on OV, but the reveal was pretty cool in the time before Musk Melon destroyed Twitter (with a little help from its citizens, of course):

I don’t think we can resurrect the Hope Monster just yet because the division is probably not a realistic goal this season, barring orbital strikes or celestial bombardment in Milwaukee and St. Louis. That doesn’t mean the Cubs will just lay down and die, and it also doesn’t stop us from dreaming of the 90th percentile outcome that propels the Cubs into first place while the rest of the division goes fishing. As of now, the Cubs are probably done building and at least have a solid-but-not-super-elite rotation, a capable bullpen with reinforcements ready to deploy, and a defense that should vacuum up most baseballs hit their way, but an offense that makes you really scratch your head to find any true positives. I guess we can bin MLB into the following categories:

1. Will probably kick the Cubs’ asses

These are teams that are clearly built to compete for the World Series or bust, per AC’s comprehensive metric. We’re talking about teams that made the playoffs, that continue to show promise because they have either supplemented or significantly added to their playoff core, and by most measures are likely superior to our current Cubs squadron. In no particular order:

  • Yankees
  • Mets
  • Braves <– should probably change their team name but that’s another story for another day
  • Astros
  • Dodgers
  • Padres

I would imagine these teams would win three of every five games played against the Cubs this season, which is probably fortunate from the divisional standpoint because of the rebalanced schedule, and the fact that a couple of these are in the other league and the Cubs will only have to deal with them for a series each.

2. It could go either way

This bin features a few teams that should be projected to be better than the Cubs but have some perceived flaws, as well as some teams that the Cubs should be better than except they happen to have the reigning Cy Young award winner headlining their rotation (o hai Sandy Alcantara). Again, in no particular order:

  • The four AL East teams that aren’t the Yankees, even the Red Sox
  • Cleveland, Minnesota, and the White Sox
  • Phillies (I don’t think they’ll be as good as the Mets or Braves even if they spent like drunken sailors)
  • Seattle and Texas
  • Fine, maybe the Angels too
  • Marlins
  • Cardinals and Brewers
  • Giants
  • Possibly the Rockies simply because of Coors

That’s 16 teams in the middle of the pack who could potentially finish in any order, though you could surmise that certain teams are more likely to bring up the rear. The hope is that the Cubs hover at .500 against this grouping.

3. The Cubs would do well to kick the asses of these teams

By process of elimination, that leaves seven non-Cubs teams that are obviously full of fail and have no intention of truly competing. I probably could have thrown the Marlins and Brewers and Rockies here but those teams at least have a floor, whereas the teams I threw in this bin have been swallowed by a sinkhole.

  • Tigers and Royals
  • Oakland
  • Nationals
  • Reds and Pirates
  • Arizona

The Cubs need to win three of every five games (or better) against these clubs because they have made a conscious decision not to even try, and a team that hopes to compete needs to scoop up these victories.

The Schedule, Should You Choose to Accept It

The spring training slate starts on February 25, soon after pitchers and catchers report on February 15 and position players report on February 20 (the report dates are a couple days earlier for players participating in the World Baseball Classic). The games that count start on March 30, and you can see the schedule in the Cubs’ cute El-train animation above or at the official site. If I actually knew how to program a simulator and do all the fancy math I’d run the zillions of simulations, but since other smarter people have done that already, I’ll just do a napkin-math kind of thing here.

Here’s the matchup breakdown, plus my conservative estimate for wins banked:

  • Arizona – 7 games all in September (4 home, 3 away); Cubs win at least 4
  • Atlanta – 6 games (3 at home in August, 3 away in September); 2 wins
  • Baltimore – single 3-game series at Wrigley in June; 2 wins
  • Boston – single 3-game series at Wrigley in July (first series after the All-Star Break); 2 wins
  • White Sox – 4 total games, two at the Cell in July, two at Wrigley in August; 2 wins
  • Reds – 13 total games; Cubs win at least 8
    • @ Reds 3 games 4/3 to 4/5
    • at home 3 games 5/26 to 5/28
    • at home 4 games 7/31 to 8/3
    • @ Reds 3 games 9/1 to 9/3
  • Cleveland – singe 3-game series at home 6/30 to 7/2; 1 win
  • Colorado – 6 games all in September (3 at Coors, 3 at Wrigley); Cubs win at least 3
  • Detroit – single 3-game away series in August; 2 wins
  • Houston – single 3-game away series in May; 1 win
  • KC – single 3-game home series in August; 2 wins
  • Angels – single 3-game away series in June; 2 wins
  • Dodgers – 7 games all in April (3 away, 4 home); 2 wins
  • Miami – 6 games (3 away in April, 3 home in May); Cubs win at least 3
  • Milwaukee – 13 games, including the home opener; 7 wins
    • at home 3 games 3/30 to 4/2 (plus the floating rain day for the home opener)
    • @ MIL 4 games 7/3 to 7/6
    • at home 3 games 8/28 to 8/30
    • @ MIL 3 games 9/29 to 10/1 (to close the season)
  • Minnesota – single 3-game away series in May; 1 win
  • Mets – 6 total games (3 home in May, 3 away in August); 2 wins
  • Yankees – single 3-game away series in July; 1 win
  • Oakland – single 3-game away series in April; 2 wins
  • Phillies – 6 total games (3 away in May, 3 home in June); Cubs win at least 2
  • Pirates – 13 games; 8 wins
    • at home 3 games 6/13 to 6/15
    • @ PIT 3 games 6/19 to 6/21
    • @ PIT 4 games 8/24 to 8/27
    • at home 3 games 9/19 to 9/21
  • Padres – 7 total games (3 at home in April, 4 away in June); Cubs win at least 3
  • Giants – 6 total games (3 away in June, 3 at home in September); Cubs win at least 3
  • Seattle – single 3-game home series in April; 1 win
  • Cardinals – 13 games; 6 wins
    • at home 3 games 5/8 to 5/10
    • in London 2 games as the away team 6/24 to 6/25
    • at home 4 games 7/20 to 7/23
    • at STL 4 games 7/27 to 7/30
  • Rays – single 3-game home series in May; 1 win
  • Texas – single 3-game home series in April; 2 wins
  • Toronto – single 3-game away series in August; 1 win
  • Nationals – 7 total games (4 away in May, 3 home in July); Cubs win at least 4

Adding up the minimum number of wins, with the assumption that it is hard to sweep a series against any team but they will happen and it will likely even out, we come to 80 wins, which is obviously no fun. We can probably swing the pendulum 10 wins in either direction, but it’s going to take an insane amount of luck to get past 90 wins, much less 85, which likely means the Cubs are on the outside looking in come the postseason.

What is interesting with the schedule is how many of the “Category 3” teams the Cubs get to play after the trade deadline, when they would have sold even more, so that could be a way to bank some extra wins. The Cubs also have a shot at banking some wins to keep pace in the division in April before they have to face the Cardinals. Couple that with the enhanced defense and pitching infrastructure, and you have a team that could potentially outperform their Pythagorean record through run prevention. But realistically, we’re looking at a .500 team with potential to surprise, and since nothing else has happened while everyone’s been focused on football at the time of this post, this is probably the best we can hope for.

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  1. berselius

    Braves <– should probably change their team name but that’s another story for another day

    I just call them the Barves until they change it *shrug*

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  2. Author
    Rice Cube

    Listening to Rosenthal on the Athletic podcast, he referenced Jayson Stark’s realignment/expansion column and I guess the inside track is 8 divisions of 4 teams each with geographical realignment, so I should probably go back and hunt it down to read now

      Quote  Reply


  3. Author
    Rice Cube


    We did suggest 84 wins as the realistic projection based on ZiPS but when I just kind of broke it down in this post it was closer to 80. I also think the bottom tier is so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs went .750 against them and boosted their win total that way.

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  4. dmick89

    Rice Cube,

    I think this and the zips projections and pretty solid, but I think the Cubs also again unload at the deadline (wouldn’t be surprised to see Suzuki and Stroman dealt, almost certainly Happ and Hendricks, maybe others).

      Quote  Reply


  5. berselius

      Quote  Reply


  6. Author
    Rice Cube

    Of course, small sample size and all, these moves improved the team that swept the Phillies and the Mets late in the season, so who knows what luck may come?

    I’d much rather know on paper that this is a 100-win club than to rely on luck, but I wouldn’t object to it.

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  7. andcounting


    I’d say the Bears did him a favor, but they were really good the year Mahomes likely would have started to play consistently. I’m sure he’s better thanks to Andy Reid and the weapons he’s had, but he still could have been great as a Bear. No guarantee though, (dying laughing).

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  8. andcounting

    Rice Cube,

    They were 12-4 with an infinitely inferior quarterback in 2018. The o-line the past two years has been terrible, but that was essentially by design this season en route to a rebuild.

    Again, no guarantees, but I don’t think anyone is explaining away Trubisky’s struggles to the Bears o-line.

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