clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2017 Bill James Handbook Cubs Projections

New, comments

Once again, the Bill James system projects the Cubs to have an excellent season.

The 2017 Bill James Handbook has actually been in print for a few weeks, but earlier this month, we were occupied with other things, like winning the World Series.

The book, as usual, contains a number of articles on various baseball topics. This edition again looks into starting pitcher rankings (the Cubs’ five starters ranked fourth, ninth, 13th, 15th and 40th by their system, and I’ll leave you to guess who ranked where), as well as a couple of essays by Bill James himself titled “Run Impact of Events” and “Long Flies and Big Flies.”

The Fielding Bible Awards are given out by the James Handbook each year, and for 2016 Anthony Rizzo won at first base and Javier Baez got the “multi-position” award.

Beyond that and the statistical record of every player, the highlight of this book each year are James’ projections for the following season. Here’s last year’s article; as you can see, some of these were really good, including projecting the power increases for Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and the return of Jake Arrieta to being just good instead of amazing. The system didn’t project the seasons that Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks had, though, and James has written in the past, and does again, that pitchers are hard to project:

I never had the courage to try to create a set of formulas which would project pitching stats; I always thought that was too complicated. John Dewan and some of his men create those formulas, so I don’t really understand them, so when they do something that doesn’t seem reasonable I just scratch my head and complain about the damned computers like anybody else.

Having quoted that from the book, the pitching stats projected below don’t seem unreasonable for the nine Cubs pitchers I’ve got listed. The system doesn’t take into account the fact that Mike Montgomery is slated to be a full-time starter in 2017, so those numbers are likely off. It also projects Hector Rondon to reclaim his closer job, which he very well might, and if so he could put together a pretty good season doing that.

The nine pitchers I listed here have a projected combined won-lost record of 84-42, which is a .667 winning percentage, and that would be 108 wins over a full season. Naturally, we’d love to see that, although winning that many games is really, really hard. It’s been done just six times in the divisional-play era (since 1969) and not since 2001 (Mariners, 116 wins).

I’ve got 11 hitters listed below. I chose to list Dexter Fowler because he still could be re-signed; the James system also projects Albert Almora Jr. to play a full season, with decent numbers (though not walking very much, producing just a .290 OBP). The system also projects a nice comeback 2017 for Jason Heyward, which would be welcome. One number that stands out is just 95 RBI for Bryant despite 42 home runs. That would be the third-lowest RBI total for anyone who hit 42 or more homers i a season. It seems likely that number comes from the fact that Bryant hit second most of this season, and would likely have fewer RBI opportunities if he continues to do so.

Otherwise I think most of these projections are pretty reasonable. If Kyle Schwarber has the season projected, or anywhere close to it, that could make up for the loss of Fowler’s on-base ability if he signs somewhere else.

As always, the James Handbook is a fine way to go over what’s happened in the season just completed, and to prepare yourself for spring training. And, check out the back cover, which is a tribute to “Bryzzo”:

Here are projections for Cubs hitters and pitchers for 2017.

Cubs hitters
Player G
AB R H
2B 3B HR
RBI SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Albert Almora Jr.
150 566
75 148
35
4
9
75
13
6
.261
.290
.385
.675
Javier Baez
142 428
59 120
22
1
20
71
15
6
.280
.326
.477
.803
Kris Bryant
155 597
124
185
37
3
42
95
11
5
.310
.405
.593
.998
Willson Contreras
118 415 61
127
29
3
15
65
5
4
.306
.378
.499
.877
Dexter Fowler
145 529 90
140
29
6
13
48
14
7
.265
.371
.416
.787
Jason Heyward
151 553
76
146
31
3
13
62
14
5
.264
.347
.401
.748
Anthony Rizzo
157 595
91
165
41
2
32
103
6
4
.277
.373
.514
.887
Addison Russell
151 524 74
135
30
2
22
89
6
3
.258
.322
.448
.780
Kyle Schwarber
148 538
107
144
20
2
32
100
5
3
.268
.376
.491
.867
Jorge Soler
91 258
38 69
15
1
12
43
1
0
.267
.355
.473
.828
Ben Zobrist
149 563
87
149
35
3
16
72
7
4
.265
.365
.423
.788

Cubs pitchers
Player G GS IP H HR BB SO W L SV ERA
Jake Arrieta
32 32 208 162 15 66 195 17
6 0 2.90
Carl Edwards Jr.
62 0
62 37 3 37 77
5
1
2
2.18
Justin Grimm
66
0
54 50 4
24
53
3
3
0
3.67
Kyle Hendricks 31
31
194
168
14
45
166
15
6
0
3.02
John Lackey
30
30
194
185
22
51
160
13
9
0
3.62
Jon Lester 31
31
213
187
19
52
203
16
7
0
3.13
Mike Montgomery 43
11
102
101
10
39
79
6
5
0
4.06
Hector Rondon
66
0
64
55
6
12
62
4
3
37
2.67
Pedro Strop
65
0
60
42
4
22
67
5
2
0
2.40