I’m going to try to snap some pictures of the CTA holiday train, which for some reason is running along the Purple Line today, on my periodic offseason trip to Wrigley Field. If you check out the webcam, you’ll see that the Hefty bag is off and you can see the construction guys milling around. The support beams look a bit shinier but maybe that’s just because of the way the camera and light is set. There is also apparently going to be a new entertainment complex south of Wrigley Field, so I’m wondering if there has been some progress on that as well.
In a bit of good news for most of us who value our brain cells and baseball viewing experience, it sounds like FOX has decided to sack Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci from live commentary and replace them with Hall of Famer John Smoltz. I think we’ll wait for this to become super-official, but anything that reduces the amount of complaint about how bad Harold Reynolds is, is probably a good thing. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, keep an eye on the ballot tracking as we’re hoping for another four inductees this coming summer.
ZiPS for Leake in STL. I agree with ZiPS on this one – safe, reasonable, and not terribly exciting. pic.twitter.com/HNc5nogvcN
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 22, 2015
If you follow this thread, it’ll show you that Leake has been a difficult matchup for the Cubs, but it also comes with a caveat that Leake will not be facing the same team as in the past, or even last year. The Cubs’ young hitters are good at adjusting, and are projected to still be very, very productive, so let’s not be too defeatist. The Cubs, prior to the Leake signing, had a massive lead in projected WAR over their closest competition, which happened to be the Cardinals. If you take replacement level to be around 47-48 wins, then the Cubs on paper should win about 98-100 games in 2016, and that’s before Joe Maddon works his magic. This brings us to our previous poll, where I asked Cubs fans what they would do with the roster as it stands today. Based on over 240 votes:
- 39% would try to get more pitching
- 34% would stand pat
- 21% would try to get pitching and a center fielder
- 6% would try to get a center fielder
There were a couple of comments both from our Facebook page and in our poll suggesting that folks didn’t have a lot of confidence in the Cubs’ current outfield alignment, with Jason Heyward in center field despite not being a true CF. My argument is that they’ll probably be fine. The pitching appears to be of even more concern to our voters, and my assumption is that it has something to do with how poorly Jason Hammel pitched down the stretch. However, there are reasons to be optimistic, and given the price of pitching on the open market and in trade, it makes sense for the Cubs to sit back and see what options open up. This appears to be what Theo Epstein has suggested in his recent radio interview:
Epstein and the Cubs appear to be in a position of strength going forward. Chicago has added depth and versatility to a young, improving team, and it doesn’t have any gaping holes entering the season like it did entering 2015 with a lack of rotational depth.
“We are likely done,” Epstein said on Inside the Clubhouse. “Maybe a smaller move here or there. We have certainly considered some big moves in a variety of directions. Those moves are not that appealing right now. Right now, I like where we are, with the ability to open the season with a really talented roster that fits together.
“This gives us the ability to read and react. We can then see what the first half of the season brings. We can see how players react to positions that are relatively new to them. We can see how players improve who were with us, see what our starting rotation looks like. We have not touched our farm system yet. We will be in a position to make some nice adjustments midseason.”
This jives with what some of us have been thinking. The roster right now is giving us plenty to fantasize about, and while we understand that there are flaws, they’re not so terrible that this team is destined to be a disaster right out of the gate. With that, let’s get in another set of polls before we hit the holiday…
Question 1: Assuming health, how many games will this roster (as currently constructed) win?
Question 2: Based on your answer to question 1, where will the Cubs finish in the pennant race?