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February 2017

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COMMENTS

Why the Cubs Will Repeat As Champions, Part 3

Written by , Posted in General

I’m going to spare all of us the wheel spinning and just state the obvious that the Brewers and Reds are not going to compete in 2017.  So that leaves us with the Pirates and the Cardinals.  Do they have what it will take to hang with the Cubs in 2017?

With Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Tyler Glasnow, and Chad Kuhl, the Bucs appear to have the makings of a pretty solid rotation–maybe.  If the stars align, these five could be fairly formidable, but what are the odds of that?  Cole has a history of injury.  Nova has a very short track record and while promising, Glasnow and Kuhl are completely unproven.

Jung Ho Kang is a question mark of sorts at 3B.  After being arrested for DUI in his home country of South Korea, his legal obligations there mean he will miss the beginning of spring training.  But beyond that there is the spectre of a possible suspension from MLB looming over him.  But even if that doesn’t happen, his 2017 is off to a less than ideal start.

It looks like the Pirates will have David Freese, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Josh Bell, and Franciso Cervelli around the infield.  Josh Bell just had knee surgery and might not be ready for the start of the season, but they still have John Jaso, he of the blonde dreadlocks who could be in for Bell at first if he is not ready for opening day.

The Pirates have realigned their outfield defense with Gregory Polanco in left, Starling Marte in centerfield, and Andrew McCutcheon in right.  At first glance this looks like a point of strength, but Marte’s defensive numbers in centerfield are markedly worse than they were in left, where he has won back to back Gold Gloves.  Polanco will have to deal with being on the other side of the diamond, and McCutcheon has to deal with a new position and the slight of losing his more prestigious spot in center.  Plus there are still trade rumors floating around about McCutcheon.  How will they all respond?

While the Pirates return a lot of quality players, they didn’t do much to improve the team that went 78-83 in 2016.  And while an argument could be made that they had some injuries and the curious case of Andrew McCutcheon holding them back in ‘16, I don’t see some better luck getting them 20 more wins in 2017.  The Pirates look to be a solid, but not a spectacular team again, and I’d guess they finish around 84-80.  Well behind the Cubs.

The Cardinals have Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver fighting for the 5 starting slots.  Whoever comes out on top, assuming they all stay healthy, this should be a strength for the team.

They return Johnny Peralta, Aledmys Diaz, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina around in the infield.  And they have Randal Grichuk, Dexter Fowler, and Stephen Piscotty around the outfield.  In terms of changes, the Cards have essentially replaced Matt Holliday with Dexter Fowler.  Holliday had a 0.3 WAR in 2016 where Fowler had 4.2 WAR, so this is an almost 4 win upgrade.  However, 2016 was the best year of Fowler’s entire career—1.4 WAR higher than his previous high.  So can he realistically be expected to repeat that feat at age 30?  I have my doubts.  Especially because he won’t have Kris Bryant hitting behind him.  I’m guessing he will make a +2.5 difference.

Long story short, the redbirds made the one big addition with Fowler but didn’t do a whole lot else considering how far back of the Cubs they finished in ‘16.

In my previous 2 articles through sabermetrics I attempted to show how the Cubs will be better in 2017 than they were in 2016.  But more than all of the number crunching, what tells me the Cubs will win in 2017 is these guys are winners.  They’ve been through many gauntlets and come out the other end stronger.  They know how to win.  And more importantly, they know they can win.  They’ve done it.  And they’ve got the rings to prove it.  They have *21* guys back from the 25 man World Series roster, and two of the replacements the Cubs have acquired have successful World Series experience of their own that they bring to the party.

So absent some majorly unforeseen circumstances, I just don’t see how the Pirates or the Cardinals can hang with the Cubs in 2017.

Joe Maddon came to Chicago to win a World Championship.  He did it in 2 years.  Do you think he’s done?  That he’s ready to ride off into the sunset in his RV?  Personally, I don’t think so.  I think the best is yet to come.  And the National League better watch out.

  • JTBarrett16

    The pirates will finish 84-80? How are they going to play an additional 2 games?

    • Adam Peters

      Damn math!

      I knew I rushed this to print.

      • JTBarrett16

        “If you go 72-11 and don’t win the title it means nothing. Actually it does. It means you’ve cheated and played an extra game.” – Shaq. That was my first thought when I saw the 84-80

    • Eddie Von White

      They’re special.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      They are Pirates they will just take what they want, and two extra victories are what they want!

    • Kyle

      They could play 10 extra games and they’ll still finish over 10 games behind the Cubs.

    • Sherm

      The new imbalanced interleague schedule, plus they play a bunch of seven inning games this year against little league teams. Anything can happen.

      Not a fan of John “The White Jamaican” Jaso.

      The baseball team from St. Lois (yes, CAPS, I know how to spell Louis…but it’s funnier without “u”) (Get it? That’s two jokes in one, so four. Damn. I’m on fire.)

      Anyway, that Missouri team – will be better than they were last season because they do have some good young talent that will also improve, and Fowler will be a solid clubhouse presence. They will have to battle for a wild card spot and could get one…but they do NOT win the central – I’m with you on that, Adam.

      I think the real BATTLES this season will be for the wild cards, since every division in the NL has at LEAST two very good teams, and at least ONE potential spoiler. It should be fun to watch. It will be a lot more fun to watch if the Cubs can burst out of the gate again and give themselves some distance…

      • Brad Lyerla

        The Cardinals always worry me. Supposedly Reyes has a shoulder injury and that could be a problem for them. But the Cardinals will be a good team again this year.

      • Adam Peters

        Reyes is out for the year–Tommy John. I should have included that, but spaced it at the last minute.

      • Adam Peters

        It’s six innings in Little League, Sherm. Jeez!

      • Sherm

        Noted.

        My daughter played fastpitch softball, which was seven, and I think that got stuck in my head.

        That changes EVERYTHING. Now you have to show the Pirates going 83.43 – 79.92

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        I love the math!

  • Brad Lyerla

    Adam, I agree with the case you have made so eloquently. I don’t see anyone out there better than the Cubs. I am on board with that. Yet, I don’t expect the Cubs to win it all again this year. It is too hard to repeat.

    For me, the fun of this year will be watching to see if they can overcome that huge challenge. They might. They are an unusual bunch and their chemistry is special.

    Whatever happens, unless they fall flat on their faces (which seems almost impossible), this year is going to be great viewing.

    • Adam Peters

      I get your point, Brad, but I would argue that repeating won’t be as hard as winning it all after 108 years was. They had all the pressure in the world on them last year–Sports Illustrated had them winning it all on the cover at least twice, amongst other things–and they got it done. That monkey is off their back and now it’s Go Time.

      Don’t get me wrong, there are several very good teams out there that will give them a run for their money, and it’s not like it’s a slam dunk, but they should win the Central and be a, if not the, favorite heading into the postseason.

      And on a personal note, all last season and through the playoffs when someone asked me “Is this the year?” I always said, “We’ll see,” or “Hope so, they’ve got a great shot,” or something like that. I don’t know if I was afraid I was going to jinx them or what, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say something like, “Hell yeah this is the year!” So for this year, screw that nonsense. The Cubs are Kings of the Hill and they’ll stay there until someone knocks them off. So, hell yeah they are going to repeat!

      • Brad Lyerla

        I say they are the best. Right with you there. But the best do not always win. The vagaries unknown. That’s why is so goddam fun to watch.

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs will win in 2017 because they have moxy, they are gamers with grit.

    • Sherm

      Don’t say that. Len will say “Moxie sounds like Roxy and that reminds me of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry (not Adams) and that makes me think of King Crimson, and wait, what…oh, the Cubs just scored…”

      • JTBarrett16

        They’re going to score that a hit

      • Doug S.

        Didn’t realize the connections between Roxy Music and KC.

      • Sherm

        Lots of connections from that seed – if I’m not mistaken, that’s how Fripp and Eno met, and they worked with Bowie on his Heroes album, and I think Paul Carrack (Squeeze) joined the band in their later years. When I saw them – 78 or 79, I think, Ferry and Manzanera were the only two guys that remained from the earlier years (and while Manzanera could still play – they really weren’t that good…at least that night.)

      • Doug S.

        I knew that John Wetton played in both and Ferry auditioned for KC and didn’t get the gig, but totally missed the Eno connection. Thanks.

      • Sherm

        Remember when Bryan Adams tried out for them and the entire genre killed itself?

      • Doug S.
      • Adam Peters

        More than this, there is nothing…

      • Sherm

        More than this, tell me one thing…

    • Eddie Von White

      The Cubs will win, period!

      • cap’n realist

        Eddie von Confidence

    • Buddy

      Don’t forget these classics…

      “They’re gym rats.”
      “They won’t quit.”
      “They eat, sleep and breathe baseball.”
      “They’re in the best shape of their lives.”

      And of course…

      “They know how to win.”

  • Doug S.

    I wish I shared the optimism of this group for the Cubs’ 2017 season. Not being a downer for the sake of being a downer, I like the way you’re thinking and hope you guys are right.

  • Eddie Von White

    Just landed in Denver wearing my Cubs shirt. Some clown has a San Fran hat on but I don’t see any Rockies gear anywhere. Before I left home Eddie Von Jr. advised me to not wear a sweater and instead wear my Cubs shirt. I hate it when you’re kids get smarter than you.

    • Sherm

      Someday, they’ll have baseball in Denver

    • JTBarrett16

      I’m in Springfield, MA to work at the RV Show and I decided to wearing my Cubs hat and shirt this weekend. In just a two hour shift a dozen people congratulated me and an Indians fan gave me a bear hug.

  • Sherm