Over the last few years, these end-of-season pieces have been filled with sadness, regret, and even a tiny bit of relief that the suffering of the Cubs team is over for that year.
I looked back at my preseason picks for the 2015 Cubs season a few weeks ago, and boy did I have a good team. This team has just been so wonderful and has exceeded the expectations of even those that expected a strong season. Some expected a below-average year. Others expected a .500 team. Some of us even thought that the Cubs would push for a playoff spot.
Instead, we got greatness and it has been so very sweet.
You can see the preseason article in its entirety here, but to make it easier on you, I've included each of my 10 predictions below with analysis of how close (or not) they were to what actually transpired.
1. The Cubs will wait for more than 12 days to add Kris Bryant to the 40-man roster and promote him to Chicago, but he will make his debut in April
Back in April, I noted that this was a gimme, and it certainly played out that way. The one real surprise? Injuries to Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella necessitating Bryant's arrival on the first day possible. Remember when Bryant went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts? Too bad he couldn't provide the boost that we so desperately needed this year (ha).
2. The Cubs will have seven different starting pitchers start at least 10 games
This one ended up being relatively close: by the end of the weekend, the Cubs should have four starters in excess of 30 starts in Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Jason Hammel. Dan Haren should reach 11, Travis Wood got to nine, and Tsuyoshi Wada reached seven.
Unfortunately, the names I picked in April didn't end up quite right as I had Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta, Hammel, and Wada correct, but it was a lost year for Jacob Turner and instead of making a valiant recovery, Edwin Jackson left town.
Clearly not a perfect pick, but one with which I'm happy enough.
3. The Cubs will finally draft a pitcher in the first round of the Rule 4 Draft for the first time since 2010
Straight up wrong.
I'm still disappointed that the Cubs didn't draft Brady Aiken, but as Jason McLeod has taught me, he knows a thing or two about drafting collegiate position players in the top ten. I specifically mentioned Ian Happ as a guy who didn't much interest me this year, but after a strong debut across two levels, Happ is well on his way to Kyle Schwarber status. Kyle still comes with the same glaring flaw that I saw in his pre-draft evaluation (defensively homeless on a National League team), but his offensive game was so much better than expected that all is forgiven. Hopefully Happ takes the same path.
4. Starlin Castro will continue his ascent to the upper echelon of Major League shortstops... but Addison Russell will nip at his heels
I figured that this would be an extremely compelling 2016 battle, but instead, this fight reared its head early on this year, finally culminating with Castro ceding the job to Russell in early August. Russell didn't just nip at Castro's heels; he bit off his foot.
But this prediction wasn't just about the Castro v. Russell battle. It was also about Castro. Castro enjoyed a solid April, but then his season completely fell apart over the next three months, reaching its nadir with an astonishing -1 wRC+ for the month of July. As a point of reference, going 1-for-5 with a single and a strikeout generates a wRC+ of 3. Wow.
It got so bad that I wrote an article requesting that the Cubs remove Castro from the starting lineup; rather incredibly, Joe Maddon obliged just a few days later in spite of a decent run from Starlin.
But a funny thing happened on Castro's descent into the depths of baseball hell this summer: he changed course. In fact, he pulled a complete 180, going from being the worst regular in baseball in July to the best in September. It's hard to believe, but it's true. Of the 209 players with at least 70 plate appearances in the month of July, Castro's -1 wRC+ ranked 209th. Dead last. Of course.
But September? Of the 222 players with at least 70 plate appearances in September, Castro's 207 wRC+ ranked 2nd, behind only elite slugger Bryce Harper.
I don't like to use this word, but it's appropriate: Starlin, your recovery was unbelievable. Good on you. I think I speak for all of use when I say we're ecstatic to have you back.
As for my prediction, this one was a miss. Thankfully August and September make Castro look a whole lot more like the plus regular we expect him to be. Also thankfully, Russell forced the issue and made Castro's struggles acceptable to the Cubs.
5. Chris Coghlan will not party like it's 2014
Nope! I challenged Coghlan's offense and defense before the season, stating that I just didn't see him holding his job. So what happened? While his offense dipped a bit thanks to a massive BABIP drop, his glovework jumped from "awful" to "kind of good," making him a strong regular yet again. Yet another miss about which I find myself smiling.
6. No player will be tougher to peg than Junior Lake
Before the year, I noted that Lake had a solid opportunity to make himself back into a part of the Cubs future by playing well at Iowa while questioning how exactly he'd fit with the Cubs this year. Unfortunately, Lake didn't crush Iowa, and the front office decided that two months of Tommy Hunter's monster fastball was worth Lake's remaining controllable years. Even with Hunter's struggles with the long ball, it's tough to disagree.
It's certainly a disappointing end to Lake's tenure with the Cubs. I had high hopes for him, but the next wave of talent passed him by in a hurry.
7. Kris Bryant will lap the field as the runaway Rookie of the Year Award winner
With all due respect to Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang, this one was right on the money. Bryant didn't hit for quite as much power as I predicted, but the elite offensive skills showed up beautifully for the young third baseman to the extent that he should find himself in the middle of a number of Most Valuable Player ballots this year. Wow.
8. Zac Rosscup will supplant Phil Coke as the primary left-handed reliever by July
I really thought that Rosscup was going to take the leap this year. Dead wrong. Coke certainly let go of the job, but instead of Rosscup grabbing the position, that honor went to a combination of James Russell, Travis Wood, and Clayton Richard.
9. The Cubs will NOT acquire a marquee talent at the trade deadline
I thought that this winter's free agent starting pitching crop would prevent that Cubs from making a marquee acquisition, and that proved to be true as the club instead tinkered. That decision looks like a solid one. Expect the Cubs to make a play for an elite starter - I'm looking at you, David Price and Jordan Zimmermann - this winter while continuing to hoard their prospect cache.
10. The Cubs will win 86 games... and sneak into the playoffs as the second Wild Card qualifier
Look, this year didn't go exactly the way that I thought it would. The Nationals improbably imploded, the Marlins took a gigantic step back instead of emerging, Arizona fought for competence instead of another top overall draft pick, and Pittsburgh proved to be elite instead of average.
I did get some things right, however, picking the Reds to conduct a massive summer sale followed by a couple of terrible months. I also thought that New York would be an average team, picking them to go 82-80. In the end, the Mets are a National League East mirage, posting a .500 record against teams outside of their division (43-43) while beating up on their tanking divisional opponents. In fact, the Mets went 3-16 against the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals with all three wins coming against St. Louis.
But no prediction makes me happier than picking the Cubs to win the second Wild Card spot. Thing is, I thought they'd sneak in whereas, in reality, they steamrolled their way into the playoffs.
So, if you're like me and you can't keep the memories of playoffs past from creeping into your mind, think back to April when it seemed aspirational to hope that the plucky Cubs could sneak their way into October.
#wearegood isn't just a Twitter movement for Cubs fans; it's also an understatement. Turns out #wearereallydamngood is too long. But it's the truth and this team has proved it all year by upping its play. Let's not be surprised if #wearewinninginoctober catches on in the coming weeks.
This club has already exceeded somewhat aggressive expectations. Why stop now?