Sunday, February 1, 2015

Are the Cubs Really Going to Challenge the Cardinals?

Apparently, the Las Vegas odds makers believe the Chicago Cubs are for real - giving the franchise that hasn't won a World Series in 106 years a legitimate shot to win it all in 2015 (12 to 1).  Only the Washington Nationals (11 to 2) and Los Angeles Dodgers (8 to 1) are considered to have a better shot at becoming World Champions.

Joining the Cubs at 12 to 1 are the Boston Red Sox, LA Angels of Anaheim and the St Louis Cardinals.  In other words, the Cubs have made such an off-season splash, they're perceived to be on equal footing with the Cardinals, heading into the new season.  Technically, they will be tied for first place prior to Opening Day.  That's the good news.  The bad news:  They have to play 162 games.

I'm not just mocking the Cubs because of their past history of ineptitude.  Actually, their immediate future - this season - is destined to disappoint their delusional fan base for the 107th consecutive year; but who's counting?

Here's a comparison of each team's anticipated lineups for the upcoming season.  These are the  position players expected to start most of the games (along with last season's WAR & projected WAR for this season):

C     Yadier Molina (2.3 WAR - Projected 5.5)     Miguel Montero (0.6 WAR - Projected 1.5)
1B   Matt Adams (2.2 WAR - Projected 3.5)        Anthony Rizzo (4.9 WAR - Projected 5.5)
2B   Kolten Wong (2.1 WAR - Projected 4.5)       Javier Baez (-1.1 WAR - Projected 1.5)
3B   Matt Carpenter (2.8 WAR - Projected 3.5)    Tommy La Stella (-0.4 WAR - Projected 1.5)
SS    Jhonny Peralta (5.7 WAR - Projected 3.5)     Starlin Castro (1.9 WAR - Projected 3.5)
LF    Matt Holliday (4.0 WAR - Projected 4.5)      Chris Coghlan (0.6 WAR - Projected 1.0)
CF    Jon Jay (2.8 WAR - Projected 2.5)                Dexter Fowler (1.5 WAR - Projected 2.5)
RF    Jason Heyward (7.0 WAR - Projected 5.5)    Jorge Soler (1.1 WAR - Projected 3.5)

Total Cardinals (28.9 WAR - Projected 33.0)         Total Cubs (9.1 WAR - Projected 20.5)

For the Cubs, their third baseman of the future - Kris Bryant - may be called up early enough in the season to have a positive impact on the team's fortunes.  There is very little doubt he'll be an elite player - possibly near "Mike Trout" levels of performance, once he gets acclimated to the major leagues.  Let's say he's called up early enough and performs at a ridiculously high rate to produce a 10.0 WAR.  We'll remove La Stella's projected 1.5 WAR and insert Bryant's projected 10.0 WAR to change the team projection to a 29.0 WAR.  Even then, it's probably not going to be enough to catch the Cardinals - who also have better pitching than their arch-rivals.

The bottom line:  Those 12 to 1 odds may be appropriate for the Cardinals.  But it's a sucker bet for the Cubs.

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