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2022 Bill James Handbook Cubs projections

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... as well as some other players you’ll be interested in.

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The Bill James Handbook for 2022 is filled with the statistics you need to get you through the winter — all the numbers for the current players, plus leaders in both traditional and “Bill James” categories in both leagues.

James also has several essays in this year’s book, as usual, including two titled “The World’s Best Hitter” and “The World’s #1 Starting Pitcher Rankings,” which give point scores to MLB hitters and pitchers and then rank them at different intervals of the season. In fact, James goes all the way back to the 1940s to rank various pitchers, stating that this system:

... represents a player’s current level of ability, as best as we are able to measure it. It doesn’t represent how well you have pitched in the last month. What it tries to measure is everything relevant to the issue of “How good is this guy at this moment?” You have to prove it over time; you don’t jump to the top of the list with a two-month hot streak, unless you were close to the top spot before the two months began.

It’s interesting to see the progression of great pitchers over the last 75 years or so. James made all the calculations himself for numbers before 2004, the date when Sports Info Solutions began to track these numbers.

You will not be surprised to learn that Max Scherzer tops the current list, followed by Walker Bueher and Jacob deGrom. What I thought was interesting was that as bad a year as Kyle Hendricks had, he still ranked 74th of 122 current pitchers ranked, indicating that Kyle might be able to go back up this list next year. In case you’re wondering: No. 122 was Jon Lester.

For the hitter rankings, Mike Trout continues to top the list even though he didn’t play after May 18. Juan Soto is second and Bryce Harper third.

Continuing in our Cubs theme here, you might be surprised to learn that Frank Schwindel’s hot two months put him 92nd of 125 hitters ranked. That’s pretty good for two months of MLB production.

There are other essays by James, as well as several other writers on various statistical baseball topics, including one titled “Hits Lost and Gained to the Shift,” highly topical. In an essay on Shohei Ohtani, the author included three QR codes which you can scan and watch an Ohtani highlight on your phone while you’re reading, a nice touch.

Now, here’s what you came here for, the Cubs projections for 2022. They are quite a bit different from what you’ve seen in previous editions of the book and reviews here, because, well, there are a lot of different players you haven’t seen before. First, here are projections for 11 hitters currently on the Cubs’ 40-man roster or in the organization.

Cubs 2022 Bill James hitter projections

Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Sergio Alcántara 89 269 35 62 9 2 5 23 4 1 .230 .326 .335 .661
Miguel Amaya 80 252 32 53 12 0 4 28 3 0 .210 .354 .306 .659
David Bote 108 276 33 64 12 1 10 37 1 1 .232 .318 .391 .709
Brennen Davis 80 250 42 55 15 0 15 38 2 0 .220 .313 .460 .773
Ian Happ 144 532 76 120 28 2 26 78 8 3 .226 .326 .427 .753
Jason Heyward 130 421 55 103 19 3 12 49 5 2 .245 .326 .390 .716
Nico Hoerner 135 457 59 121 26 2 4 47 10 5 .265 .339 .357 .696
Nick Madrigal 133 485 72 144 24 5 5 51 6 2 .297 .348 .398 .746
Rafael Ortega 105 319 43 78 16 3 9 31 9 3 .245 .315 .398 .713
Frank Schwindel 140 545 66 138 31 1 24 81 2 1 .253 .295 .448 .741
Patrick Wisdom 138 444 62 90 19 1 27 70 5 1 .203 .280 .432 .712

I have included Miguel Amaya and Brennen Davis here because they were in the book. As the James folks always write, they are not saying these players will definitely get that much playing time in MLB in 2022. (They almost certainly won’t.) What they are saying is that these are projections for what they would do IF they got that much playing time. For Davis, that tells you he surely needs more development, something I agree with.

A few notes:

  • If Jason Heyward could do that in 2022, he’d probably be worth keeping.
  • Frank Schwindel’s projected numbers are pretty good. If he could do just a little bit better than that he’d be a useful everyday regular.
  • Patrick Wisdom... just a bit more BA to make up for all the strikeouts.
  • Rafael Ortega... this is probably more who he really is.
  • David Bote is going to miss at least a month of 2022 after shoulder surgery. The shoulder injury almost certainly explains his bad 2021 after his return; he probably should have had the surgery last May and been ready for Opening Day 2022.
  • Nick Madrigal looks pretty good and probably can hit a bit better than that.

Now I’m going to show you some projected numbers for some popular former Cubs and other players who have generated some free-agent discussion here. Before I post those numbers, I want to tell you that the James system pretty much nailed Kris Bryant for 2021.

Kris Bryant 2021 projected and actual performance

Kris Bryant 2021 G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA SLG
Kris Bryant 2021 G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA SLG
Projected 144 513 86 136 32 2 25 73 62 135 10 .265 .481
Actual 141 529 94 139 32 3 26 76 72 149 3 .263 .482

What that says to me is this: Kris Bryant, who turns 30 in January, is who he is — a very, very good player whose performance going forward is likely to be somewhat lower than the standards he set for himself in 2015-17. That’s not going to be worth a 10-year, $300 million deal. We shall see.

Here are the projections for Bryant and some other hitters of interest for 2022.

Former Cubs and other MLB players Bill James 2022 hitter projections

Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Javier Baez 143 507 75 121 26 2 26 77 12 4 .239 .289 .452 .751
Kris Bryant 134 459 82 121 30 2 21 64 6 2 .264 .363 .475 .838
Nick Castellanos 151 575 91 163 43 3 32 92 2 2 .283 .343 .536 .879
Carlos Correa 148 552 88 152 33 2 25 93 1 0 .275 .364 .478 .842
Freddie Freeman 161 605 112 183 38 3 32 100 7 3 .302 .399 .534 .933
Starling Marte 147 574 93 159 32 4 16 67 34 8 .277 .342 .430 .772
Anthony Rizzo 139 463 68 121 24 2 22 71 4 2 .261 .368 .464 .832
Kyle Schwarber 142 482 81 118 24 1 33 81 2 2 .245 .355 .504 .859
Corey Seager 135 521 84 152 37 2 25 84 2 1 .292 .370 .514 .884
Kyle Seager 146 502 64 117 26 1 25 78 3 1 .233 .311 .438 .749
Jorge Soler 140 474 67 112 25 0 28 71 1 0 .236 .335 .466 .801
Trevor Story 154 604 100 169 40 5 36 95 20 6 .280 .353 .545 .898
Chris Taylor 152 522 83 131 32 4 20 71 10 3 .251 .336 .443 .779

To me, the Trevor Story projection has “Coors Field” written all over it. Any team other than the Rockies signing him: Beware.

Of all the hitters listed above, I think I’d like to see the Cubs sign Kyle Schwarber back. This, of course, presumes we have the universal DH in 2022. Nick Castellanos? Sure, but he’ll be a lot more expensive than Schwarber.

As I wrote recently, I would love for the Cubs to seriously consider Chris Taylor.

Now, here are the James projections for Cubs pitchers for 2022.

Cubs 2022 Bill James pitcher projections

Pitcher G GS IP H HR BB SO W L SV ERA
Pitcher G GS IP H HR BB SO W L SV ERA
Scott Effross 46 0 52 50 8 14 54 2 3 0 4.07
Kyle Hendricks 31 31 179 190 26 40 133 9 12 0 4.33
Codi Heuer 66 0 69 63 5 24 60 4 4 19 3.76
Wade Miley 26 26 155 167 19 53 119 8 9 0 4.47
Alec Mills 27 27 143 159 22 45 111 6 10 0 4.75
Manuel Rodriguez 35 0 35 30 4 23 39 1 2 0 4.63
Justin Steele 25 25 126 112 17 63 130 6 8 0 4.29
Keegan Thompson 35 12 67 58 7 34 68 3 4 0 4.06
Rowan Wick 51 0 53 43 4 27 64 3 3 10 3.58

A lot of the ERAs listed here seem too high, and you’ll see the same in the table below, which lists some of the pitchers I’ve written about as possible free-agent targets for the Cubs. This could be a flaw in the James system; I don’t think ALL those Cubs pitchers are going to be that bad.

There is some hope in the relievers listed, Scott Effross, Codi Heuer and Rowan Wick. Knock those ERAs down by half to three quarters of a run and you might have a pretty decent back end of the pen. I also think Kyle Hendricks’ projection is skewed far too much to his 2021 season and doesn’t acknowledge his previous career numbers. We shall see.

Here are James projections for pitchers the Cubs might look at via free agency.

Former Cubs and other MLB players Bill James 2022 pitcher projections

Pitcher G GS IP H HR BB SO W L SV ERA
Pitcher G GS IP H HR BB SO W L SV ERA
Andrew Chafin 71 0 75 65 7 24 72 4 4 8 3.61
Jon Gray 30 30 154 161 26 57 154 8 9 0 4.53
Yusei Kikuchi 28 28 142 143 26 54 136 7 9 0 4.53
Steven Matz 29 29 156 170 28 47 144 8 9 0 4.82
Robbie Ray 32 32 195 169 36 72 244 12 9 0 3.85
Carlos Rodon 26 26 143 108 16 46 185 10 6 0 3.19
Marcus Stroman 31 31 183 173 18 52 157 10 10 0 3.83
Ryan Tepera 60 0 56 42 7 20 64 4 3 0 3.46
Alex Wood 26 26 139 138 18 41 143 8 8 0 4.08

Again, many of these ERAs seem too high, particularly for Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz. That’s why they call these “projections” — by this time next year we’ll know whether these were spot-on or way off.

Anyway, almost all of that is just for fun and to start discussions, which I hope you will have here. The book is always worth picking up, just to keep you in baseball-reading shape over the winter. You can order one here.