The Bill James Handbook for 2023 is, as always, 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 for the season just completed..
But the book is far more than that. It also provides with solidly researched baseball essays that can fill up your time until baseball gears up again in the spring.
James contributes several essays himself, including updates on “The World’s Best Hitter” and “The World’s #1 Starting Pitcher.” I wrote a bit about James’ methodology for those here last year.
James’ big new essay this year is about “Young Superstars,” how that is defined and who might qualify as such in the modern game. He says:
“Young Superstar” is a transition stage in which a player who appears to have unlimited potential has not yet stuck his hand in a cactus or jumped out of a moving vehicle in an argument with his wife or lost a fight with a water cooler or fallen off a bicycle and I don’t even want to talk about what happened to Cesar Cedeño. In 2019 Ronald Acuña Jr., 21 years old at the time, hit 41 homers and stole 37 bases, the very definition of the next Willie Mays, if we were still doing that. Since then, he hasn’t been able to play at that level — whereas Willie Mays got to that level and then went on doing it for 15 years.
James’ essays are always thought-provoking and well-written and are worth the price of the book by themselves.
But I know you. You’re here for the projections.
James goes through his projections from the previous year and fesses up to the ones that didn’t come close, while showing many that he did get right. One of the players he doesn’t specifically mention on whom he came very close was Patrick Wisdom:
Patrick Wisdom 2022 projected vs. actual
That’s pretty much a home run, right? All of the numbers are within just a few percentage points. I note this specifically not just to show that James got Wisdom right, but to say that we now pretty much know this is who Patrick Wisdom is — a low-BA, decent-OBP, high-HR, high-strikeout guy, kind of a poor man’s Mark Reynolds.
If the Cubs could find better hitters for other positions, they could probably live with Wisdom at third base, or as a platoon first baseman, because Wisdom is somewhat better vs. LHP for his career: .240/.322/.512 with 19 home runs in 258 AB.
Here are the rest of James’ projections for the 2023 Cubs:
Cubs 2023 Bill James hitter projections
Wisdom, again, projects to be basically the same guy again. One thing you’ll see right away in that table: The Cubs need hitters. Only Ian Happ looks decent there, although if Matt Mervis could put up those numbers in a (mostly) platoon role, I think we’d be pretty happy. The projection system appears to under-project Nico Hoerner, probably because it uses multiple years’ worth of numbers and Hoerner wasn’t a full-time player until 2022.
I said the Cubs need hitters. Here are some free agent hitters they might consider signing:
2023 projections for free agent hitters the Cubs might look at
The Cubs really need one of those shortstops, that’s for sure. Also, if the Cubs could get that version of Cody Bellinger, that’d be just fine with me. The José Abreu numbers shown there would be useful, too.
Here are the James projections for Cubs pitchers for 2023:
Cubs 2023 Bill James pitcher projections
|Mark Leiter Jr.||45||0||73||64||12||24||82||4||4||0||3.80|
That is not encouraging, though I think they have underestimated Justin Steele, perhaps by quite a bit. The numbers shown for Hayden Wesneski are encouraging, and perhaps the Cubs could actually make a closer out of Brandon Hughes.
Here are some of the pitchers I’ve featured in “free agent target” articles who the Cubs might be interested in:
2023 projections for free agent pitchers the Cubs might look at
I’m going to go on record here as saying I think that projection for José Quintana is pretty close to what he’ll do and if the Cubs could sign him for a reasonable deal, they should do it. Perhaps he could make up for his lousy 2019.
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.