Friday, December 21, 2012

Jackson, Villanueva Push Cubs Closer To 80 Wins

So, big news on Thursday: The Chicago Cubs added a pair of starting pitchers, Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson. Like many around the sabersphere, I applaud these acquisitions. I think Dave Cameron's writeup on FanGraphs captures the heft the wisdom:
But we should note that Edwin Jackson makes them better, and this price for Edwin Jackson is still completely reasonable based on his established performance level. That the Cubs aren’t yet obvious contenders shouldn’t cause us to tell them to stop trying to improve. By bringing in Jackson and Carlos Villanueva today, while already adding Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, the Cubs have now acquired four interesting starting pitchers this winter. They’ve rebuilt their entire rotation, essentially, and have set themselves up to be able to trade Matt Garza...
The only key item Cameron (full disclosure: my boss) leaves out of his analysis is the 2014 free agent pitcher market, which is bare in comparison to how the 2013 shook out.

So where does this put the Cubs at in 2013, though? According to my, shall we say, napkin predictions, they are approaching 79 wins.



This set of predicted outputs and innings -- based largely on Bill James projections, my own estimations, and average outputs from the last three seasons -- suggest the Cubs have a 79-win talent roster.

That is barring a breakout from Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, Ian Stewart, Welington Castillo, or Starlin Castro. That is also barring a continued maturation of Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, and Nate Schierholtz.

I think the only truly generous prediction here is my hero, former Hanshin Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa, who I expect to be nails in his rookie campaign. There's a good chance I end up looking dump for predicting a 3.20 ERA for him, but predicting reliever ERAs makes most people look dumb, so whutevz.

As a 79 true-talent team, the Cubs are -- as Cameron says -- in the 70- to 90-win range, a crucial window where some good luck (both on field and/or in player development) can push them over the edge. More than that, these two pitchers put the club in even better position in 2014, when names like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler could be quite relevant and quite exciting.

Good signings. Good timing. An exciting new era in Cubs offseasons. :)

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