The 2016 Bill James Handbook has been released and next season’s projections for the Chicago Cubs look amazing.
If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s basically the most comprehensive baseball reference guide on the market today. If you’re not familiar with Bill James, he’s widely regarded as the one of the best statisticians in baseball history. It was his work and analysis of the game that eventually led to the sabermetrics system that most teams use today in scouting players and creating game plans for an opponent. Remember the system that Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane used in Moneyball? That system was basically founded by Bill James. If you’re not familiar with Moneyball, well, then I just can’t help you anymore. Let me just put it this way. In 2006, James, who is the Senior Advisor of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox, was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Believe me, the guy’s good.
I suppose you didn’t come here for a history lesson, so let’s get to the projections for the 2016 Chicago Cubs, who have already been picked by many as the early favorite to win the World Series next year.
Just look at that. If these numbers are even close to what he’s projecting, it looks like Kris Bryant may compete for the Triple Crown, don’t you think? It looks as if Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler are poised for breakout seasons, but a lot of people were expecting that anyway. One notable absence from this list is Kyle Schwarber, who just didn’t get a projection for next season. I don’t know why, but my guess is that he’s looking at a big year. Starlin Castro’s numbers look to be about what we’ve come to expect, and the “veteran” of the club, Anthony Rizzo, looks to have another great year as well. Sure, these are just projections, but before you dismiss it, here’s what Bill James projected for Anthony Rizzo in the 2015 book.
PROJECTED: .274 BA, 91 runs, 39 doubles, 34 HR, 99 RBI, .513 SLG
ACTUAL: .278 BA, 94 runs, 38 doubles, 31 HR, 101 RBI, .512 SLG
That’s pretty damn close. In a quote from the book, James also had very high praise for the Cubs first baseman.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw Anthony Rizzo in uniform; this was in late February in Ft. Myers, must have been 2008 or 2009. At that time the Red Sox had a big left-handed hitting first baseman who was supposed to be a super prospect, Lars Anderson, but for some reason his power never came around at game time. There were three left-handed hitters in a spring training hitting group, just blasting the ball–Anderson, Rizzo, and David Ortiz. I was standing about ten feet away from them. Anderson would hit the ball about 380 feet, then Rizzo would step in and hit about 400 feet, and then David would step in and hit it about 420. The ball would just hang in the air for about an hour and sometimes it would bounce up and hit the side of the team bus that was parked out there at what was supposed to be a safe distance, and then finally Rizzo got hold of one perfect and actually hit it over the bus. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, who’s this guy?’ Rizzo looked like David, as a hitter, and that’s saying something, because there aren’t that many David Ortizes running around.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that. We all know the Cubs will have plenty of offense in 2016, but what about the pitching? Well, Mr. James has projections for that as well.
The pitching looks good as well. The numbers for Lester would be an improvement from this past season, and even the projections for the bottom part of the rotation (Hammel, Hendricks) look good enough to get the job done, assuming they’re still in that position. Arrieta certainly will have a lot of pressure to repeat what he did in 2015, but a season like that is a lot to ask of anybody, so it will certainly be interesting to see how he responds.
Just for kicks, I also wanted to give you the projections for David Price, who I’m sure you’ve heard by now has been linked to the Cubs as free agency gets underway today.
32 games, 32 games started, 223 innings pitched, 199 hits, 20 home runs, 42 walks, 214 strikeouts, 17-8, 3.03 ERA
Yep, I’ll take that too. Only time will tell if any of these numbers come to be in 2016, but with everything we saw this past season, it’s a sure thing that the excitement level for next year is off the charts. How many days until spring training?