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2018 Bill James Handbook Cubs projections

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The Cubs are headed for another good year, say these projections.

Each year, the baseball handbook that bears the name of the father of sabermetrics, Bill James, has a wealth of baseball information that comes out just at the right time, the beginning of the offseason, a worthy tome to peruse all winter.

In addition to career statistics for every active major-league player, the book has articles by James and others on various baseball topics, including one by James himself that he terms “the longest essay in the 30-year history of this book” on the Hall of Fame and who might be headed that way in future years, based on how previous inductees have fared.

The Fielding Bible Awards, which I wrote about here earlier this week, are presented in detail. Javier Baez won the “multi-position player” award for the second straight year and here’s what the Handbook says about Javy:

Baez possesses arm strength that is above average when he plays on the left side of the diamond, and becomes downright ridiculous when he is playing at second base. Baez believes he can make every throw on the diamond, and the vast majority of the time he is correct. Whether he is positioned at second base or shortstop, Baez is incredibly adept at ranging to his right, setting his feet, and getting off a strong accurate throw all in one motion. He is also excellent as a relay man, using his aforementioned arm strength to cut down runners who attempt to take an extra base. No matter what position he is playing, Baez loves to position himself incredibly deep on the infield prior to the pitch to allow himself ample time and the opportunity to have every angle available to him as he chases down groundballs. Finally, Baez’ ability to make quick tags directly upon receiving the ball has aided in making base runners extra wary when attempting to swipe second base.

I think that sums up Javy pretty well.

The thing you are most interested in here, of course, are the projections James makes each year, with a system he tweaks frequently to try to make it more accurate. As he notes:

We used to project performance based on the player’s performance over the previous eight seasons, but our research has shown that it is a little more accurate to use only the last six seasons, so from now on we will use only the last six seasons. That’s a modification to the system. We changed the way we project runs and RBI from the other batting stats. We changed the weighting of stolen bases from past seasons. The system is supposed to work better than it has in the past. We’ll see.

One thing the system did pretty well for 2017 is project Anthony Rizzo:

We projected that he would play 157 games in 2017, which he did, and that he would hit 32 home runs, which he did. That’s a good projection — our ninth-best of the season — but Anthony Rizzo is easy, because he’s the same player every year. It’s the third time in four years he has hit 32 homers. The other year he hit 31. If he hits .315 with 11 homers in 2018 we’ll be completely wrong with our projection, but as long as he keeps doing what he always does, we’ll be OK.

All of the Cubs projections for 2017 from last year are in this article, so you can make your own comparisons. You’ll note that almost all of them are similar to last year’s, and also similar to the players’ 2017 performance. The system projects Justin Wilson to throw much better than he did after his arrival with the Cubs (that’d be nice), and also for Mike Montgomery to be a fulltime starter, which Theo & Co. have already said is probably not going to happen. The projection for Alex Cobb likely is based on him being an A.L. East pitcher; his numbers might improve moving to the N.L. Central. Similar pitchers who have made similar moves have done so. Otherwise I don’t see any extreme outliers in these projections.

Here are the Bill James projections for Cubs hitters and pitchers in 2018. I’ve also added in one free-agent pitcher the Cubs might sign. The Bill James handbook is always worth getting, to help you through the offseason.

Cubs hitters
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Albert Almora Jr. 142 508 62 136 28 3 11 61 4 1 .268 .305 .400 .705
Javier Baez 149 521 70 130 24 2 26 82 11 4 .250 .301 .453 .754
Kris Bryant 156 593 111 169 36 3 37 99 8 4 .285 .393 .533 .936
Willson Contreras 117 397 52 112 24 2 20 68 4 3 .282 .361 .504 .865
Ian Happ 146 532 82 130 25 2 32 93 10 4 .244 .319 .479 .798
Jason Heyward 148 526 71 138 27 3 14 62 8 3 .262 .340 .405 .745
Jon Jay 112 373 54 102 18 2 3 35 4 2 .273 .350 .357 .707
Anthony Rizzo 159 597 94 167 37 3 32 104 8 4 .280 .387 .513 .900
Addison Russell 142 501 67 121 28 2 19 74 4 2 .242 .314 .419 .733
Kyle Schwarber 141 506 84 118 21 1 36 81 2 2 .233 .339 .492 .831
Ben Zobrist 143 511 76 131 28 3 13 55 3 2 .256 .352 .399 .751

Cubs pitchers (plus one free agent)
Player G GS IP H HR BB SO W L SV ERA
Jake Arrieta 31 31 182 149 16 58 172 12 8 0 3.54
Alex Cobb 31 31 181 192 23 48 130 8 12 0 4.40
Wade Davis 60 0 63 40 3 26 80 5 2 33 2.90
Carl Edwards Jr. 74 0 68 36 4 39 92 5 2 0 3.02
Kyle Hendricks 30 30 188 163 17 48 163 13 8 0 3.57
Jon Lester 32 32 199 178 21 57 192 13 9 0 3.66
Mike Montgomery 27 27 145 128 12 59 115 9 7 0 4.04
Jose Quintana 31 31 192 176 17 54 190 13 8 0 3.62
Pedro Strop 66 0 61 41 4 25 67 4 2 0 3.23
Justin Wilson 64 0 55 41 4 27 70 4 2 0 3.27