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Revisiting my 5 bold Cubs predictions for 2023

I actually did somewhat well on these.

Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Last January, I posted five bold predictions for the 2023 Cubs.

Since you’ve probably forgotten about those — I had, until now! — let’s take a look and see how I did.

Adbert Alzolay will become the Cubs closer and post 40 saves

Well... if David Ross had just taken my advice and made Alzolay the closer from Opening Day, maybe he would have posted 40 saves. Yes, I know he got hurt late and that prevented him from posting more than 22 saves, his final total.

On the other hand, Alzolay was basically anointed closer in early June, just about the time the Cubs started turning the season around. His third save was posted June 9 against the Giants in the Cubs’ 69th game. Thus he posted 19 saves in 61 team games; his last save happened August 29, after which he pitched in only four more games.

That computes to 50 saves in a full season. Even considering he might have blown some opportunities, I’ll stand by my claim that he, and the Cubs, would have done better if he’d been named closer on Opening Day. My feeling is that Craig Counsell would have done that.

I’ll give myself half credit here for saying Alzolay would become the closer.

Cody Bellinger will hit well enough to be named NL Comeback Player of the Year, and the Cubs will keep him with a contract extension

Here are the numbers I predicted for Bellinger: .275/.375/.490 with 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Actual numbers: .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs and 20 stolen bases, a bit better than my forecast. He was, in fact, named N.L. Comeback Player of the Year.

But then I wrote:

The Cubs will tear up his mutual option mid-season and sign him to a six-year, $155 million contract.

Well. I wish they’d have done that, but they didn’t. It’s still possible he returns. I’ll give myself half credit for this one, too.

Kyle Hendricks will return to form

He did, though not quite to what I predicted:

... the Cubs’ improved defense will allow The Professor to make 33 starts (not missing any for injury) and post a 3.10 ERA and 1.100 WHIP. He’ll lead the league in walk rate, walking just 1.2 per nine innings.

Hendricks didn’t return until late May, making 24 starts with a 3.74 ERA and 1.204 WHIP. He didn’t have enough innings to qualify for any league statistical rates, but if he had, his 1.8 per nine innings walk rate would have ranked third in the National League. The numbers weren’t quite as good as I had hoped, but I’ll give myself half credit again for “return to form.” He had a 1.5 bWAR season. Had he not missed those nine further starts I thought he’d make, that number probably would have been 2.0 or a bit higher. The Professor will return again in 2024 for his 11th season as a Cub.

Matt Mervis will be named National League Rookie of the Year

Well, nope. Prediction:

.280/.345/.505 and hit 30 home runs

Mervis did hit .282/.399/.533 with 22 home runs — at Triple-A Iowa. He had just 99 MLB plate appearances and batted .167/.242/.289 with three home runs and 32 strikeouts. Interestingly, combine his MLB and Iowa numbers and you get .259/.356/.485 with 25 home runs. That’s not too far off my predicted total.

Perhaps he’ll get another chance in 2024.

A big fat zero on this one, especially for also stating:

... his season will beat out fellow NL Central rookies Jordan Walker and Spencer Steer, who will finish second and third respectively.

Steer got one third-place vote. Walker did not get a single RoY vote, and I didn’t mention the actual winner, Corbin Carroll, at all.

The Cubs will win 87 games and be in the postseason as a wild card team

I didn’t miss by too much here — the Cubs missed the postseason by one game, and 87 wins would have had them as the second wild card team, facing the Phillies in a wild card series.

Maybe if they’d had Alzolay closing from Opening Day...

I’ll post another set of bold predictions early in 2024.