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   1. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 10, 2007 at 06:19 AM (#2295174)
98 wins feels a little high to me, but I don't think you're positing utterly implausible ideas here.

I think, with average luck/health/managing, this is about a .500 team, maybe a touch better, say 80-85 wins. To get to 98 wins - or thereabouts - I think basically you'd need the team's weaknesses/question marks to fall into place. For me, the weaknesses of the team right now are a lack of offense from the middle infield, a lack of a real major-league centerfielder, and too many question marks in the starting rotation.

I'd put the requirements for that "best realistic case" as follows (in no particular order):

1. Soriano plays a passable, if not above-average, defensive center field and plays 150+ games
2. Floyd and/or Jones stay healthy/productive all season
3. Prior gives us 30 GS / 200 IP / 3.50 ERA or thereabouts
4. Ramirez and Lee stay healthy all season (300+ combined games, .300 EQA each)
5. Barrett plays 130+ games w/ OPS+ > 110 or so (.275+ EQA or so)
6. The Cubs get about a .250 EQA from their middle infield
7. Nobody puts up a fluke bad season - say a 10%-PECOTA season or something like that

If those things happen, this feels like about a 95-win team to me.

The big unknown for me is Piniella. Part of me thinks that just replacing Dusty with anybody could be worth 5-10 wins all by itself, which may or may not be factored into that 80-85 win range I mentioned above. And I think Dag Nabbit said that Piniella was one of the best managers around at getting big turnarounds when he took over teams. If that's the case, then maybe this team projects out to a 90-win team with just average luck/injuries. In which case a 98-win scenario should certainly be possible, if not exactly likely.
   2. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 10, 2007 at 01:07 PM (#2295194)
I guess I would expect 95 wins or so from what I outlined above, and look to St. Pythagoras for a little sugar to go higher than that. I was trying to come up with the fewest number of positive outcomes that would bring me there, and to me, it would involve an excellent pitching staff coming together. Again, the top four guys averaging at least 190 IP, which would probably mean an average ERA for those guys somewhere in the mid- to high-3s, is something I can see happening (not that I expect it to happen!). Of course, if Marquis plays the role of Shawn Estes 2003, a lot of that advantage could be eaten up.

It's hard to say what Baker's effect was, but I think it's best to ignore the manager as a factor. If anything, I would routinely give a team with a new manager a small honeymoon bonus just because he will bring an air of freshness to the proceedings and perhaps make the players feel like they're getting a new start. I think it's reasonable to expect Piniella to be competent. I don't expect any miracles, but I don't expect him to get in the way of any miracles either.
   3. dcsmyth1 Posted: February 10, 2007 at 01:14 PM (#2295196)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?
   4. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 10, 2007 at 01:54 PM (#2295205)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

Check the "odds"? What odds?

In all seriousness, I wouldn't look to previous season win totals as a significant factor in estimating the odds of a team winning a particular number of games. I am only thinking out loud about what might be a realistic alignment of positive outcomes that would represent a best case scenario. I'm thinking about something along the lines of a <10% chance of happening, but I am extremely wary of any attempts actually to estimate that and pulling that number out of thin air.
   5. bunyon Posted: February 10, 2007 at 02:29 PM (#2295211)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

I don't believe it has ever happened. I put the odds of 98 wins from the Cubs at less than 1%. I think best case the Cubs could be competitive in the central. But I think that is more of the 85-90 wins in a weak division competitive than juggernaut competitive.
   6. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 10, 2007 at 03:00 PM (#2295218)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

I don't believe it has ever happened. I put the odds of 98 wins from the Cubs at less than 1%. I think best case the Cubs could be competitive in the central. But I think that is more of the 85-90 wins in a weak division competitive than juggernaut competitive.


Cubs? No. Their best was a 28 game improvement from 1966-67. But the D'Backs and the Braves did (probably more).
   7. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 10, 2007 at 06:10 PM (#2295291)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

Well, how many 66-win teams have gone on the kind of spending spree that the Cubs have? The best comp I could think of off the top of my head was the mid/late-90s Marlins, who seemed to more-or-less buy themselves the 1997 World Series. But I think they did that over the course of a couple of seasons, and they improved from 67 wins in 1995 to 80 in '96 to 92 in '97, which is only 25 wins and spread over two years, but that's the sort of scenario that I think Andere's envisioning here.

In terms of a wild offseason of spending, how much does that parallel a wild offseason of purging? That is, the 1998 Marlins basically shed several $100 million in high-priced players (thinking in '06 dollars) and won 38 fewer games than the year before. Is it easier to drop 38 games than gain it? It feels like it should be, but then again, if the 1998 Florida Marlins had gone on a spending spree and basically bought back all of the players from their 1997 team, why couldn't they have jumped back up to 90 wins?
   8. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 10, 2007 at 07:06 PM (#2295307)
Well, how many 66-win teams have gone on the kind of spending spree that the Cubs have?

That, and other factors. You say 80-85, but my guess is that DMB sims will put the Cubs in the mid- to upper-80s. If I'm right about that, we will have an unbiased projection for a 20 win improvement. If that's the projection, then it shouldn't be too hard to come up with reasonable scenarios that would lead to 10 wins or more beyond that. Maybe I'm wrong and the best mean projection for the Cubs is a losing record, but I don't think so, and I expect the sims to agree. We'll see.

I simply don't believe in using the previous season's win total as a starting point for a projection. 30-win improvements are rare and thus require a highly unusual set of circumstances, but so what? We already have an unusual set of circumstances in place.
   9. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 10, 2007 at 09:40 PM (#2295356)
So what will it take for the Cubs to win 98 or more games?

- An average of at least 190 IP out of their top four starters
- One of those four is Mark Prior, who makes a serious step back toward 2003
- Zambrano meets/exceeds projections
- The bullpen falls into place behind the starters and posts solidly above average numbers
- The Cubs average 150 starts from Ramirez, Lee and Soriano, each of whom meets or exceeds projections
- No serious decline from Barrett
- No position is a black hole (i.e., worse than replacement level)
- A few wins from St. Pythagoras


Just a few comments:

1. If you're going to predict what you think will happen, I don't think it's fair to add "a few wins from St. Pythagoras." You might as well just say "luck" and, as long as we're making predictions, why not make it 10 wins while we're at it?

Instead, I'll read your column from the perspective that you believe in 95+ wins or so and act accordingly.

2. If all those things come to play, I think 95+ wins is probable, but so what? Nearly every team in MLB can come up with a similar set of circumstances that would give them 95+ wins. Take, for instance, the Pirates:

-- Jason Bay has an MVP caliber season, exceeding even his years to date, and plays 160+ games
-- Adam LaRoche continues to hit with an OPS+ over 130, and also plays a full season
-- Freddie Sanchez has another All-Star quality year
-- Xavier Nady has a reliable and good season
-- Andrew McCutcheon sets AA on fire and, after a mid-season callup, sparkles for the Pirates as well
-- Zach Duke shows the upside many had projected from him
-- Shawn Chacon returns to 2005 form
-- Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm taking steps forward as good, reliable starters
-- Tony Armas, Jr. gives reliable help at the back of the rotation
-- The bullpen remains excellent, with Saloman Torres or perhaps Damaso Marte emerging as a good closer
-- They also get lucky

Heck, under those circumstances, the Pirates can win 95 games too.

The key is to figure out the chances of these things happening, by themselves or in combination.

3. In the Cubs, some of those things have a good or at least decent chance of happening (I would consider #3, #4, and #6 as good chances). Some are ok, but not likely (#1 and #7). In the end, though, I think the chances of *all* those things happening is pretty slim.

At this point, I find it very difficult to make predictions about the team. I'm still fairly sure that there will be another deal or two made before Opening Day, and there certainly will be one or two mid-season. I don't know what kind of influence Lou Piniella is going to have, and I don't know how Hendry will interfere, stifle, or even aid matters. Some of the players (Prior, Floyd, Wood, Miller) are complete question marks, health-wise, while others (Marquis, DeRosa, Izturis) are question marks in terms of effectiveness.

To me, this is a team that is certainly capable of winning 95, but it is also a team that is capable of winning less than 80 as well.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: February 10, 2007 at 10:11 PM (#2295359)
I love unbridled optimism (I claimed the Cardinals would walk away with the division by about 10 games before 2004, and 2005 and 2006) but realistically I don't see the cubs improving that much, but as mentioned any team could win that many games with similar odds.

my team
Wells pitches like he did when he still cared about baseball
Reyes takes the next step
Wainwright handles starting as an average pitcher
Issy's injury was the reason he pitched so bad and he rebounds
Edmonds performs at 120 ops+ and plays 140 games
Duncan performs at 120 ops+ and plays 140 games
juan plays 105 ops+.
Yadier improves to 85-90 ops+

that is pretty much it, and most of those really don't have to happen for my team to post 95+ wins(of course I consider the cards to have been an 89 win team last year since 11? of issys blown saves became losses.


but I do love the optimism, if I could convince Cardinal fans to accept optimism it would be much more fun on many of the Cardinal boards.
   11. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 10, 2007 at 10:31 PM (#2295365)
realistically I don't see the cubs improving that much

Why not? Obviously none of us are going to purely objective here. But, honestly, I'm not a big fan of the Cubs' offseason because it shows a lack of intelligence/creativity and I don't particularly care for trying to buy a championship on aesthetic grounds, but do you really see the Cubs as a 70-win team?

I mean, as bad a signing as Jason Marquis was, 2006 Marquis is actually an improvement over what the Cubs were throwing out there as #4 and #5 starters last season. That's how bad the 2006 Cubs were. It seems to me the 2007 Cubs are practically guaranteed to be a good bit better just by showing up.

I'm just curious: what about the 2007 Cubs do you dislike enough to think they're a 70-win team? Or by "that much" are you talking about the 15-30 game improvements we're talking about here (and, of course, none of us is actually predicting a 30-game improvement)?
   12. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 10, 2007 at 10:46 PM (#2295370)
If you're going to predict what you think will happen, I don't think it's fair to add "a few wins from St. Pythagoras." You might as well just say "luck" and, as long as we're making predictions, why not make it 10 wins while we're at it?

Wasn't I explicit about the fact that I wasn't making a prediction?

Heck, under those circumstances, the Pirates can win 95 games too.

Perhaps, but I don't that scenario is as realistic as what I outlined. In other words, the realistic alignment of the stars for the Pirates is not going to result in 95 wins, IMO.

In any case, I think it's more worthwhile to outline scenarios such as this and what the result would be than it is to make bullseye predictions about a team's win total.
   13. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 10, 2007 at 11:02 PM (#2295373)
Not every team can come up with similar sets of circumstances under which they'd win 95+. Andere's scenario includes a lot fewer improbabilities than what's concocted for the Pirates. Sure, it might be wishcasting to hope that Izturis remains above replacement level or that Prior performs well, but other than that his expectations appear to be pretty reasonable. It's not wishcasting to hope that players remain injury free and "meet expectations." The improbability of 98 wins comes in the hope that they all occur in the same season.


I think it's best to start with some sort of baseline. WARP is highly imperfect tool, but it's readily available and easy to use:

C Barrett = 3 WARP
1B Lee = 6 WARP
2B DeRosa = 3 WARP
SS Izturis = 2 WARP
3B Ramirez = 5 WARP
LF/RF Murton/Jones = 4 WARP
LF Floyd = 3 WARP
CF Soriano = 6 WARP

#1 Zambrano = 8 WARP
#2 Lilly = 4-5 WARP
#3 Hill = 4 WARP
#4 Miller/Prior = 2 WARP
#5 Marquis = 2 WARP

Those are all conservative estimates based on 3 year weighted averages. The above listed WARPs of just the starters get the Cubs to about 73-77 wins. If the bullpen and bench wind up above replacement level, the Cubs will project to be much better. Theriot, Cedeno and Blanco will probably all hover around replacement level, but the bullpen should provide quite a few wins. (For comparison's sake, the bullpen was worth about 17 WARP last season.) So if everyone were to perform as projected and the bench and bullpen were good, we'd be looking at a 94 win team.

This isn't intended to be definitive or to argue that the Cubs are actually a 94 win team. I think they're an 88 win team. The point is just that it's not completely improbable or a 1% chance that the Cubs will win 95 games. The roster they have now is clearly capable of it without too much good fortune.
   14. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 10, 2007 at 11:35 PM (#2295384)
but I do love the optimism, if I could convince Cardinal fans to accept optimism it would be much more fun on many of the Cardinal boards.

Trust me, this is the only optimistic thread of the last twelve months, and likely of the next twelve months also. However, I'll enjoy it while it lasts. At the least, this season promises to be interesting.
   15. Dag Nabbit is a cornucopia of errors Posted: February 10, 2007 at 11:37 PM (#2295385)
98 win scenario? OK, I'll play.

Last year they went 66-96, so they need 32 extra wins. They pythaged out to 70-92, and while I don't think pythag deviation is entirely luck, certainly luck plays a role. That's four wins right there.

By my reckonin' the difference between the back end of the Cubs rotation and normal lousy back-of-the-rotation starting pitching was 7-8 wins. Let's say they can get routinely rotten pitching from the damned end of the rotation. That's 78-84. That's the easy part.

Now here's where it starts to get fun. Normal back-end rotation gets them to 78-84, but with Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, and hopefully either a healthy Prior or Miller they could actually end up with superior pitching from the 3rd and 4th slot. Heck, with luck Marquis could be an average fifth starter. Or if we're really lucky, he'll get injured and one of those kids from last year like Marmol could take a step forward. Let's say Zambrano remains healthy, Prior has an unlikely return to form, Hill remains solid, Lilly responds well to his demotion to AAAA, and something nice happends between Marquis and the Potluck Brigade. Much of that I can see happening, but not all of it (especially the Prior part), but if it does, they could have an extra 5-6 wins right there. That's 84-78.

Last year the Cubs starting pitchers threw fewer innings than any other. Going longer will put less toll on the bullpen and let those guys rest more. Let's say that's an extra win right there. 85-77. Last year they had one of their worst relievers in the closer role. Let's say Piniella handles the 'pen better. That's - oh, I dunno - two wins. 87-75.

Their pitchers hit better. Don't laugh, that's almost 300 AB a year, and that really can have some impact over the course of a year. Not a huge amount, but a game definately. Z was fantastic, but Maddux was past his prime with the stick. Marquis, Prior, and Zambrano give them the most fearsome nine hole in the land. (Insert your own joke there). One win. 88-74.

Last year Derrek Lee went down, and Todd Walker replaced him. Though he'd hit fine in April, Walker immediately cooled off and the Cubs went from having one of the best first basemen to one of the worst in the game. Lee will never be as good as he was in '05, but if that season represented more a breakthrough to a new level than a fluke, he can still be fantastic. I stick at these guesses, but let's say 4-5 wins. For once I'll take the low estimate. 92-70.

Michael Barrett his about as well as he did last year, but this time plays more than 107 games. Give him 35 more games, and the Cubs two more wins. 94-68.

The Cubs replace Juan Pierre with Alfonso Soriano in CF. I don't care how bad Soriano's defense is, that's an upgrade. Let's say 3 wins. 97-65. Clearly, all my estimations have been high this year.

Between Cedeno, Izturis, and the land of a thousand second basemen, they get improved production at SS. One win. 98-64.

(Confetti and balloons drop from the rafters and the organist starts playing "Happy Days Are Here Again").

I guess I still have Murton improving, and De Rosa becoming this year's most unlikely good FA pick up in all baseball.

Problems: two things you should never count on: 1) everything going right, 2) nothing good right. They should be better because of the pythag deviation and the utter horror of their 4, 5, and post-Maddux 4 hole pitchers. Barrett likely won't be as good (though really, if you factor in games played production from C really might be maintained). Rameriz will probably spend time on the DL. Their bullpen probably won't be as good. And I was taking the highest estimate I could manage without giggling on all that. I also think that, given how horrible the NL was last year, the league as a whole should be better. Regression to the man on a 16-team level.

Of course, they also lack Neifi's clubhouse presence, so their doomed doomed, truly doomed.

Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

I don't believe it has ever happened.

Really? Let's see . .. Braves improved by 29 games from 1990-1. And they improved by 39 games from 1981-2 - oh wait, that doesn't count. . . They improved by 28 games from 1952-3. And they improved by 33 games from 1935-6. And they still stunk. Still, checking just one team I found one time it happened and two near misses. (They also improved by 25 in 1913-4). The odds on the Cubs winning 98 are pretty bad, to put it mildly, but a 30 game improvement isn't unprecedented.
   16. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 11, 2007 at 02:56 AM (#2295440)
The odds on the Cubs winning 98 are pretty bad, to put it mildly, but a 30 game improvement isn't unprecedented.

I actually don't think they're that bad, as in outlandishly unlikely. I think it's greater than 5%. This is a situation where past history tells me absolutely nothing. The Cubs' chances in 2007 depend on one thing and one thing only: the team they field in 2007. What happened in 2006 only matters in how much it bleeds into 2007, and it's quite clear that the 2007 team will be a very different one.
   17. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 11, 2007 at 03:24 AM (#2295444)
Heck, under those circumstances, the Pirates can win 95 games too.

--Perhaps, but I don't that scenario is as realistic as what I outlined. In other words, the realistic alignment of the stars for the Pirates is not going to result in 95 wins, IMO.


I agree, but it kind of misses my point. I wasn't trying to say that the Pirates would win 95 games. Instead, my point was to illustrate that, purely IMO, there really isn't much use in saying "the Cubs can win 95 games if . . ." because that could be said about any team. (On this, I disagree with Thomas Richard Hamilton Nugent as well.)

I intentionally picked the Pirates as an illustration because one would think the odds of all those things happening are fairly slim, yet on an individual basis, each of them are at least plausible.

It seems to me that what matters isn't just saying "the Cubs can win 95 games if . . .," but to try to assess the chances of all those things coming to pass. Then again, to do so would ultimately lead one to conclude the likelihood of the Cubs winning 95 games . . . and you say you weren't making a prediction.


--Wasn't I explicit about the fact that I wasn't making a prediction?

Not at all. It seems that what you really want to do is list all the things that you believe could happen and which could/would enable the Cubs to win 95 games, while at the same time denying that you are making any predictions.

So now I'm completely confused. How is it that you are criticizing my Pirates list as an unrealistic "pie in the sky" projection, while at the same time denying that you're doing the same thing with the Cubs? By listing the events that form the basis of your 98-win scenario, you are implicitly predicting events that you believe could plausibly take place, no?
   18. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 11, 2007 at 03:39 AM (#2295447)
Let me try to put this another way: If your point was simply to list what would need to take place for the Cubs to win 98 games, you could just as easily have listed what would need to take place for the Cubs to win 120 games. That list would likely have entries like "Zambrano pitches 300 innings of sub 2.00 ERA baseball, winning 30 games; Lee hits 65 HRs and Ramirez hits 55; etc."

Yes, if all the things you list take place, the Cubs would most likely win 98 games. So what? Isn't the point then to try to assess which of these events are likely to take place and the likelihood of the combination of events taking place?
   19. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 11, 2007 at 04:42 AM (#2295455)
I agree, but it kind of misses my point. I wasn't trying to say that the Pirates would win 95 games. Instead, my point was to illustrate that, purely IMO, there really isn't much use in saying "the Cubs can win 95 games if . . ." because that could be said about any team.

Well, that's just a truism. The Cubs' chances of that, I think, are much better than those of the Pirates, as in significantly non-zero.

It seems to me that what matters isn't just saying "the Cubs can win 95 games if . . .," but to try to assess the chances of all those things coming to pass. Then again, to do so would ultimately lead one to conclude the likelihood of the Cubs winning 95 games . . . and you say you weren't making a prediction.

That's right, it was EXPLICITLY not a prediction. I did make some mention of the likelihood of the scenario I outline happening, all of it of course taken from thin air: between one and two SD from the mean (closer to 2)?; 5-10%? That's not a projection or prediction, it's a realistic best-case scenario, which is what I've been EXPLICITLY calling it all along. I am trying hard to distinguish my approach from that used by others who attempt to project W/L records, and you seem to want to force it back to that.

So now I'm completely confused. How is it that you are criticizing my Pirates list as an unrealistic "pie in the sky" projection, while at the same time denying that you're doing the same thing with the Cubs?

My response to that, and I think most people would agree, is that the Cubs and Pirates are in a completely different situation. My expectation, and I could be proven wrong, is that the best projections (IMO those based on simulations from individual projected performances) will result in something in the mid to upper 80s for the Cubs. I expect the Pirates to come nowhere near that. Why you insist on trying to make the two teams equivalent is entirely unclear.

Let me try to put this another way: If your point was simply to list what would need to take place for the Cubs to win 98 games, you could just as easily have listed what would need to take place for the Cubs to win 120 games.

Now you're going with an argumentum ad absurdum. Teams win 98 games all of time, sometimes even teams that project to be losers. I don't expect most good projections to place the Cubs as losers. 120 wins is ridiculous and no reasonable projection would predict that.

Yes, if all the things you list take place, the Cubs would most likely win 98 games. So what? Isn't the point then to try to assess which of these events are likely to take place and the likelihood of the combination of events taking place?

It is my belief that 98 wins is something that could reasonably happen. As in something in the neighborhood of 5% probability. The reality is that the variance on the best projection for any team is huge. I am merely acknowledging that.
   20. Spahn Insane Posted: February 11, 2007 at 06:05 AM (#2295463)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

Don't know. The '84 division winning Cubs won 96 games, after winning 71 the year before (and as someone pointed out, that's not the team record for a one-season improvement.)
   21. Boots Day Posted: February 11, 2007 at 06:36 AM (#2295471)
The Giants gained 31 wins from 1992 to 1993. The way they did it was to hire Dusty Baker.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: February 11, 2007 at 06:43 AM (#2295474)
I'm just curious: what about the 2007 Cubs do you dislike enough to think they're a 70-win team?

I don't know if that was directed at me, but I definately don't have the cubs as a 70 win team, I think they are almost a lock to be at least 81 win team(.500). I think it isn't that big of a stretch to say they are one of the three best teams in the central(and I still think the badmouthing of the nl central is overboard) I think if things go right that they could be a 95 win team, as mentioned any team can say that. If it was my bet, the over under for the cubs would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 87 wins. I don't for the life of me think that is going to take the nl central and think it is going to be hard pressed for it to take second place.

I've had the Cubs as the second best team in the central last season (behind the Cards) and the second best team in the national league going into 2004(behind the cards with a battle with two other teams not sure who it was though, think it was dodgers and braves-phillies?) So I'm a tad gun shy with my predictions on them (same with phils and white sox) I think the biggest disappointment for the Cubs fans is that Soriano is not going to put up anything like a .351 obp---.330 would be a shock see a .280/.325/.510 numbers-heck subtract his ibb and you get a much more realistic .335 obp. last season) definate improvement from the Cubs point of view and a good player, but I see more guys on their team having average years than career years.
   23. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 11, 2007 at 06:58 AM (#2295477)
cardsfanboy,

Yeah, I misunderstood your comment about "not improving that much". Sorry about that.

I pretty much agree with you. I'd peg them at 80-85 (as I think I already said in this thread - although playing around with ZIPs, I think Andere's right that they're going to project to the high 80s, at least with ZIPs) and 3rd in the Central (behind the Brewers and Cards).
   24. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 11, 2007 at 07:51 PM (#2295631)
The Cubs' chances of that, I think, are much better than those of the Pirates, as in significantly non-zero. . . .

. . . It is my belief that 98 wins is something that could reasonably happen. As in something in the neighborhood of 5% probability.


When you assess the chances of something, aren't you making a prediction? What am I missing here?

Webster's defines a prediction as "something that is predicted; a forecast." Aren't you forecasting? How is what you're doing any different from a weatherman forecasting -- predicting -- the chances of a storm?

In any case, if it's only a 5% chance, I would suggest that it isn't "something that could reasonably happen," but would be among the longest of longshots.


I did make some mention of the likelihood of the scenario I outline happening, all of it of course taken from thin air: between one and two SD from the mean (closer to 2)?; 5-10%? That's not a projection or prediction, it's a realistic best-case scenario, which is what I've been EXPLICITLY calling it all along. I am trying hard to distinguish my approach from that used by others who attempt to project W/L records, and you seem to want to force it back to that.

Not at all. I just think you're copping out -- assessing what you believe "could reasonably happen," while at the same time trying to deny that it's a prediction.

If I understand you correctly, aren't you are basically doing something similar to what Nate Silver does with his PECOTAs, assessing what you believe is the 95th percentile?

That's a prediction. It may not be the "weighted mean" and may not be what you consider the "most likely" result, but it's still a prediction nonetheless. I suggest that whenever you begin a statement with a phrase like "if Scenario X, the Cubs could/would Result Y," that's a prediction of what you believe would happen, given the scenario you describe. When you use phrases like "likelihood," "realistic," "could reasonably happen," or "I expect," or assessing the chances of something taking place (as in "between one or two SDs" from what you believe to be the mean) -- all of which you've done in this thread -- you are inherently forecasting the chances of something happening. By definition, you're predicting.


[T]he Cubs and Pirates are in a completely different situation. My expectation, and I could be proven wrong, is that the best projections (IMO those based on simulations from individual projected performances) will result in something in the mid to upper 80s for the Cubs. I expect the Pirates to come nowhere near that. Why you insist on trying to make the two teams equivalent is entirely unclear.

I think we disagree about the Pirates chances relative to the Cubs, but that's a side point.

Let me try again: Every team can come up with a list of things that need to take place for them to win 95 games. The Yankees' list would be much more likely than the Royals', but one could construct a list of events for every team that would need to take place for them to win 95 games.

I don't think anyone would deny that if all the events on your list took place, the Cubs could/would win 95-98 games. So what? Isn't the point to try to figure out if your scenario is realistic? Isn't the necessary next step to try to assess/predict the likelihood of those events actually happening? In doing this, aren't you making a prediction? If all you are doing is simply listing the things that you believe need to take place for the Cubs to win 95-98 games -- without trying to assess/predict the chances of those things taking place, I don't really see much point in it. That might just be me, though.

The only difference between your list and my list of the Pirates is that you essentially think that your list is the 95th percentile for the Cubs, but would be perhaps the 99th percentile for the Pirates. It's still a prediction, and (as we agree) an unlikely one at that.

Also, I might add, when you write that "[m]y expectation . . . is that the best projections . . . will result in something in the mid to upper 80s for the Cubs" and that "I expect the Pirates to come nowhere near that," you're also making predictions.
   25. bunyon Posted: February 11, 2007 at 08:16 PM (#2295647)
Has anyone actually checked what the odds are? How often does a team gain 30 wins in one year?

I don't believe it has ever happened.

Really? Let's see . .. Braves improved by 29 games from 1990-1. And they improved by 39 games from 1981-2 - oh wait, that doesn't count. . . They improved by 28 games from 1952-3. And they improved by 33 games from 1935-6. And they still stunk. Still, checking just one team I found one time it happened and two near misses. (They also improved by 25 in 1913-4). The odds on the Cubs winning 98 are pretty bad, to put it mildly, but a 30 game improvement isn't unprecedented.


Would've posted earlier, but have been busy with all the egg.
   26. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 11, 2007 at 09:05 PM (#2295698)
When you assess the chances of something, aren't you making a prediction? What am I missing here?

Webster's defines a prediction as "something that is predicted; a forecast." Aren't you forecasting? How is what you're doing any different from a weatherman forecasting -- predicting -- the chances of a storm?


No. It is not a prediction. It is not a forecast. Predictions and forecasts are not if/then statements.

A forecast would say that Chicago will get 5 inches of snow. What I am saying is that if the low pressure system forms over Missouri and interacts with the high pressure system to its southeast, not a likely scenario but within the realm of reasonable possibility, Chicago might get 18 inches of snow. In the case of baseball, I find predictions to be pretty useless. I am more interested in considering the entire spectrum of reasonably possible outcomes, and of course the most interesting is the best-case scenario.

In any case, if it's only a 5% chance, I would suggest that it isn't "something that could reasonably happen," but would be among the longest of longshots.

95% is a cutoff point that you see used a lot. I was actually trying to consider a scenario that came a bit short of that, and of course, I'm pulling that out of thin air anyway. And obviously, 95% is nothing close to the longest of longshots. In the case of baseball, you have to take events of that probability seriously, because the standard error on projected outcomes is large. DMB was off by an average of 5.5 wins last year, for example, and was off by 10 or more wins for seven teams in MLB, so the spread on these predictions is huge. Kiko mentioned that he thought the Cubs project to 80-85 wins, which seems reasonable enough, but even if his 82.5 bullseye is good, he'd better make that range something along the lines of 77-88 unless he's better than DMB (I understand that he was making no claims about degree of precision when he said that). That's just the nature of the beast. For most teams, I 'd guess you have to consider a 20-25 win spread as what is likely to happen 95% of the time.

Every team can come up with a list of things that need to take place for them to win 95 games.

That's not what I did. I tried to intuit a list of events that weren't likely to happen, but could happen, and not represent a ridiculously unlikely sum of events. I think that for the Cubs that lands them in the upper 90s. I think it's true that for most teams (the Pirates, IMO, being one of the few exceptions), yes, you can come up with similarly or more likely scenario that would produce 98 wins. So what? All I want to do is think about what is the best scenario we can reasonably hope for.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: February 11, 2007 at 10:02 PM (#2295725)
I think a lot of this is semantics honestly. I mean the original article was about there is a remote, realistic possibility that the cubs could win 95 games. I happen to agree that there is a slight realistic chance that the Cubs can win 95 games (I don't think there is a slight realistic chance that the Pirates could do that)

And even some of those extreme cases he's pushing isn't really out of the picture, I mean a return to form for prior? why not?(I'm expecting Wells to be better for the Cardinals than he was for the Pirates the past few years and don't for a second think I'm overly wishing/naive on this point)

his points were 1. healthy pitchers (yes his team has a couple of injury histories, but it's still not out of the question) 2. Return of Prior (not out of the question, he's a heck of a talent when healthy) 3. Zambrano pitches like Zambrano(don't even think this needed to be put in there to be honest) 4. Bullpen pitches average (considering the nature of bullpens, definately not out of the question, heck there are people on primer that would probably be willing to go into the regular season with no bullpen players and think they could cull a league average bullpen from the minors, remaining free agents etc) 5. healthy seasons from their three best, of which all three have a strong, very strong track record of good health 6. barret performs like his three year average? seems reasonable. 7. no replacement level players playing (seems likely) 8. and a little bit of luck (always necessary although he was applying the luck into the first point and second point)

I guess looking at this list and seeing it rebroken down, it's not that big of a stretch to say he is going with low risk issues. I think more than what he has listed has to happen to reach 95 wins. (heck 1. maintain the recent mastery over the Cardinals) but that is my opinion, if he really thinks his list is accurate enough for 95 wins then he has to be pretty optimistic as I don't see ANY longshots there (yes number one is a longshot, but it's the exact same longshot that 30 other teams face every year and about half make it through...not talking about the 190 innings, just maintain health for the season)
   28. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 11, 2007 at 10:24 PM (#2295735)
I mean a return to form for prior? why not?

I think it's probably the least likely thing on that list (and I don't require a complete return to form, just showing up mostly healthy and sporting an ERA, say, in the mid-3s). Anyway, it wouldn't be that unusual for one starting pitcher or everyday position player to vastly outpace his projection, and that's something the Cubs probably need to happen.
   29. cardsfanboy Posted: February 11, 2007 at 10:31 PM (#2295739)
by 30 other teams, I meant all 30 teams.
   30. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 02:15 AM (#2295809)
No. It is not a prediction. It is not a forecast. Predictions and forecasts are not if/then statements.

A forecast would say that Chicago will get 5 inches of snow. What I am saying is that if the low pressure system forms over Missouri and interacts with the high pressure system to its southeast, not a likely scenario but within the realm of reasonable possibility, Chicago might get 18 inches of snow.


And that's what Tom Skilling does on WGN on a nightly basis. People call those "weather forecasts" -- forecasts that Chicago is likely to get 5 inches, but may get as many as 18 inches of snow -- and recognize that it is what the meteorologist believes will happen under what he believes the conditions to be.

The only difference between this and what you are doing is that you are not trying to predict what you believe is most likely to happen (you do that later when you wrote that your expectations were in the mid-to-upper 80s). What you are doing is to predict (sorry, but I can't avoid using that word) what you think the "best case scenario" would result in (your words) if everything fell into place.

As I said, I see no difference between that and what Nate Silver does in his PECOTAs when he projects what a player will do in his 90th percentile. It's not a prediction of what Nate believes is most likely to happen -- that would be his "weighted mean" projection -- but it is still a projection nonetheless, just as his 10th percentile, 50th percentile, and others are.

In the end, though, this is a pointless debate over semantics. I think we agree that what you're saying is that "if this list takes place, then the Cubs can win 95 games." Whether or not you consider that to be a prediction at the 95th percentile (as I feel) or something else (as you feel), I still believe:

A. Nearly every team can come up with a similar list (see below). The only reason you discount the Pirates' list is because it includes events that you don't predict could happen (which was essentially my point).

B. What is more instructive isn't the list; it's to use the list to assess the chances of these things actually taking place (as you do with the Pirates). I can come up with a list of things the Cubs need to do to win 120 games and I think we could agree that if those things take place, the Cubs would, in fact, win 120 games, but that list isn't all that helpful.

What is more useful (at least to me) is to take your list, figure out the chances of these events taking place, perhaps adding a few others to the list, and from that, assess the probable outcomes. In this specific case, it might be to assess whether each of those events, not only singularly but in combination with the others, has at least a 5% chance of happening.

(I don't think it does, btw, but that's another point.)


And obviously, 95% is nothing close to the longest of longshots.

Ok, perhaps not. I recognize that in the scientific community, people assess things at the 95th percentile (among other places).

Still at 19:1, it isn't exactly something that I would classify as something that could "reasonably" happen. I think we both agree that if a 19:1 event takes place, most people tend to be quite shocked. To me, that means it isn't exactly a "reasonable" likelihood, at least IMO.

Again, though, this seems to be more an issue of semantics.


Every team can come up with a list of things that need to take place for them to win 95 games.

--That's not what I did. I tried to intuit a list of events that weren't likely to happen, but could happen, and not represent a ridiculously unlikely sum of events. I think that for the Cubs that lands them in the upper 90s.


Fair enough. Rather than start with a set outcome and determining what it would take to get there, you listed the events that you believe have at least a 5% chance of happening, then projected/predicted/whatever how the Cubs would do if all those events fell into place.

I will suggest, though, that when it comes to baseball, things like luck matter enormously and lend a high range of error to any assessments. As a result, while you're 95th percentile assessment would give the Cubs 95 wins, I still believe that a similar assessment for most MLB teams could come up with a similar outcome. (What did people predict at the 95th percentile for last year's Tigers, anyway?)
   31. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 12, 2007 at 02:41 AM (#2295819)
And that's what Tom Skilling does on WGN on a nightly basis. People call those "weather forecasts"

Well, they might, but Tom Skilling sure as hell doesn't. Weather forecasters are very careful about distinguishing "discussion" from "forecast". In every Skilling appearance, he might discuss some possibilities, but he makes a forecast that may or may not be based on what he discussed.

In fact, I think people who project baseball performance could learn a thing or two from folks like Tom Skilling. In my opinion, the mediocre forecasters just give you a forecast that you are supposed to accept without discussing caveats or their level of confidence in it. In these cases, it's pretty much just model output with no critical thinking. The good ones (and I think Skilling is one of them) give you a forecast, but they also give you a sense of the weaknesses in the forecast and other scenarios that might occur. It's an interesting problem, that of instructing people about uncertainty.

PECOTA does give you percentage estimates, and Zim is experimenting with it in ZiPS as well, but that's not enough. I don't see how someone is going to account mathematically for things like an organization being aggressive at the July 31 deadline. Or dealing with issues of injury. I think these factors are huge in determining W/L record.

Fair enough. Rather than start with a set outcome and determining what it would take to get there, you listed the events that you believe have at least a 5% chance of happening, then projected/predicted/whatever how the Cubs would do if all those events fell into place.

Yes. With the huge caveat that I am pulling that 5% out of my ass.

I will suggest, though, that when it comes to baseball, things like luck matter enormously and lend a high range of error to any assessments.

That's correct. But for purposes of discussion, it isn't saying much that the Cubs could win 98 games if they outpace the Pythagorean (inasmuch as that is about luck) by 10 wins or something. That's why I invoked a moderate Pythagorean boost that is probably of average magnitude on the positive side.

(What did people predict at the 95th percentile for last year's Tigers, anyway?)

Does anyone do that? DMB talks about standard error, but I've never seen standard error data published. I'd also love to see all of the results from their sims -- I guess I should get off my butt and look into it.
   32. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:10 AM (#2295848)
The cubs are probably amidst the good not great group of teams that are the 2nd to 6th best teams in the NL (without thinking too hard about it: Mil, SD, Phi,StL maybe LA). Thus, the circumstances under which the Cubs would win 95 or 98 games are far more probable than the circumstances under which the Pirates would. So, yes, while this exercise could be performed for every team, it's a far more reasonable thing to do for a team that will project to be pretty good than one that will project to be bad. So this entire nitpicky conversation really seems to be fundamentally about whether the Cubs are a good team or a bad team. I've looked at the numbers and I'm an optimist, so I think they're pretty good.

Teams almost never project to win much more than 94 or 95 games because regression to the mean is the enemy of the 98 win team and the dominant force in projection systems. Personally, I think the Cubs are an 88 win team on paper. But I also the Cubs are probably a little bit higher variance team than most others. Players like Rich Hill, Ted Lillt, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Murton, MarK Prior, Wade Miller, Kerry Wood, Derrek Lee....all probably have pretty hefty error bars in their projections. Now, not all of those guys will perform at their 95th+ percentile, but not all of them need to to play that wellfor the Cubs to win 95+.

Among NL teams other than the Mets, the Cubs probably have one of the best shots at winning 95 games. I really wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs' pyhtagorean record wound up anywhere from 78-95 wins. Then again, I think Rich Hill will pitch like a #1 starter and Ted Lilly like a #2, so what do I know?
   33. Dan The Mediocre Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:02 AM (#2295862)
Out of the teams that go from 2-6, the Cubs also have the best chance to lose 90 games. This is a team with a lot of potential to win, and a lot of potential to be really bad.
   34. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:44 AM (#2295866)
Out of the teams that go from 2-6, the Cubs also have the best chance to lose 90 games. This is a team with a lot of potential to win, and a lot of potential to be really bad.

you may be right, though I think the Cubs have a really good collection of talent; whether that translates to wins, we'll see. I understand the downside with these Cubs--and there might be more downside than upside around my 88 win projection--but it would take a series of really unfortunate events to get down to 90 losses. Even a catastrophic injury to Zambrano's not going to make this team a 72 win team, more like an 80-82 win team. Asssuming Zambrano stays healthy, it would probably take an injury to Lilly, an injury or ineffectiveness from Mark Prior, ineffectiveness from Rich Hill, a lot of regression from Soriano, a lot of regression from DeRosa, an injury to Aramis Ramirez and mediocrity from Derrek Lee for this team to be that bad.

Realistically, the odds of things going that wrong probably aren't that high. Lilly probably will be injured at some point, though I suspect he'll pitch well for at least 150 IP. Aramis will probably miss 15-20 games. Soriano will probably regress, but I'd guess to the 5-6 WARP level. DeRosa will likely regress a bit, too. Derrek Lee might not ever hit like Albert Pujols again, but I think he should at least revert to his 2004 form. I have a lot of faith in Rich Hill, though anything's possible with a young pitcher. The truth is, as Dag Nabbit put it above, it's not wise to count on everything going right or going wrong.

Even if a lot of this stuff goes wrong, the Cubs have the advantage of a deep bullpen, a deep OF and solid prospects like Eric Patterson, Felix Pie and Donald Veal who may be ready to help at some point in 2007.
   35. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 12, 2007 at 06:06 AM (#2295870)
Even a catastrophic injury to Zambrano's not going to make this team a 72 win team, more like an 80-82 win team.

I don't know. They've still got a pretty thin rotation. The ZIPs ERA's for their starters are the following: Zambrano, 3.46; Hill, 3.65; Prior, 4.09; Lilly, 4.26, and their next best ZIPs ERA (for a starter) is Juan Mateo at 4.64 followed by Jae-Kuk Ryu at 4.80 (Marquis' at 4.95). That's a drop-off of well more than a run per game if Big Z goes down. Losing Zambrano seems to me to absolutely be the worst-case scenario - probably worse than losing DLee last year (they're starting from a higher base, though, so I think they should still win more than 66 in that case). I mean, I guess you could live with a top 3 putting up a 3.65/4.09/4.26 but Prior's no sure thing and that's a lot of pressure on Rich Hill to become the team's ace.

If they can get 120 starts out of Z/Hill/Prior/Lilly at those ERAs, that averages to a 3.87 ERA out of their top 4, and with what could be an above-average offense (if Soriano can play a passable center field and the middle infield doesn't suck too bad), that's a playoff contender. Of course, this is Hill's first full season, Prior's made 30 starts once in his career, and Lilly's never thrown 200 innings in a season, so, yeah, that's a lot of question marks.

I will say, even if it is pie-in-the-sky wishcasting, this thread has made me a little more excited about the upcoming season.
   36. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: February 12, 2007 at 07:25 AM (#2295883)
For reference, the 2004 Cubs had a pythag record of 94-68. What Andere is proposing would essentially be that same performance but with a few wins added rather than subtracted due to luck. That team was relatively healthy with regard to its key contributors, missing about 10 starts each from Prior and Wood as well as a month from Sammy. While we can't predict everything that will happen this year in terms of injuries and individuals underperforming or outperforming projections, we can compare the 2007 Cubs to the 2004 team in an effort to gauge the plausibility of a repeat performance.

2004 lineup:
C - Barrett, 134 games, 105 OPS+
1B - Lee, 161 g, 114 OPS+
2B - Walker, 129 g, 105 OPS+
SS - Martinez, 102 g, 67 OPS+
3B - Ramirez, 145 g, 136 OPS+
LF - Alou, 155 g, 128 OPS+
CF - Patterson, 157 g, 92 OPS+
RF - Sosa, 126 g, 110 OPS+

The 2007 lineup looks to be very similar given good health. Barrett, Ramirez, and Lee should cumulatively project slightly better than their 2004 seasons. Walker's 2004 was extremely similar to DeRosa's 2006, but even with a slight decline, he should keep this team about even with that ballclub through half of the lineup. Izturis has a career OPS+ of 68, which is obviously bad but perfectly in line with Ramon Martinez of 2004. This year's outfield is constructed differently from an offensive perspective, with the best hitter in CF, though the overall contribution could certainly be quite similar. A 128 OPS+ from Soriano, 92 from whichever of Floyd and Jones plays every day, and 110 from whichever is platooned would be well within the range of expected outcomes.

The 2004 bench was terrible with the exception of Hollandsworth, who had a 134 OPS+ in 167 PAs. Even though I have mixed feelings about saying this, Matt Murton could put up a similar line this year. Nomar was a midseason acquisition with a 106 OPS+ in place of Ramon for 43 games. While the Cubs could trade for someone with such an impact, it may not even be necessary. Hitters off the bench such as Tom Goodwin, Alex S. Gonzalez, Paul Bako, and Rey Ordonez were so bad that the team OPS+ was just 102 in spite of the everyday lineup's fine offensive numbers. Even with another poor-hitting bench, the 2007 team should not perform any worse in this area.

2004 pitching staff:
SP - Zambrano, 209.7 IP, 165 ERA+
SP - Clement, 181.0 IP, 123 ERA+
SP - Wood, 140.3 IP, 122 ERA+
SP - Prior, 118.7 IP, 113 ERA+
SP - Maddux, 212.7 IP, 113 ERA+
SP/RP - Rusch, 129.7 IP, 131 ERA+
RP - Hawkins, 82 IP, 172 ERA+
RP - Farnsworth, 66.7 IP, 96 ERA+
RP - Mercker, 53.0 IP, 178 ERA+

There were many other pitchers who combined for 250-300 innings but probably aren't worth discussing in much depth. Mitre made 9 fairly bad starts, and many relievers threw 20-40 innings with an average ERA+ in the 100-105 range.

Zambrano and Prior can be measured against their own expectations for 2007. This was Zambrano's best year, so he should be a little bit worse, and though Prior is highly unreliable, 118.7 IP and a 113 ERA+ is not too much of a stretch. Clement and Wood could be replaced by Hill and Lilly, with Hill's ZiPS projection nearly identical to Clement's line. Lilly is expected to be more in the 100-110 range, but a Bronson Arroyo-like bump in performance in going from the AL East to NL Central would not be much of a surprise. Two relievers out of Howry, Eyre, Dempster, Wood, Wuertz, and Ohman should come close to matching Hawkins and Mercker, while the rest of the bullpen should have no problem posting a 100-105 ERA+. The 2007 bullpen may project to be a slight upgrade over the actual numbers of the 2004 team, which would make up for Zambrano's inability to match his 165 ERA+.

In my opinion, the toughest performances to approximately replicate are those of Maddux and Rusch. Marquis can throw as many innings as Maddux did, but what are the odds of him maintaining an ERA+ in the 113 range? Replacing those innings with an 80 ERA+ would be a tremendous loss, as would replacing Rusch's in such a way. Can Miller, Cotts, and whoever else greatly exceed expectations as a fill-in starter / long reliever? The Cubs got great production from the bottom of the rotation including the principal replacement starter in 2004. Those spots look like the biggest question marks in terms of the 2007 team's likelihood of approximating that performance.
   37. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 12, 2007 at 08:10 AM (#2295886)
I don't know. They've still got a pretty thin rotation. The ZIPs ERA's for their starters are the following: Zambrano, 3.46; Hill, 3.65; Prior, 4.09; Lilly, 4.26, and their next best ZIPs ERA (for a starter) is Juan Mateo at 4.64 followed by Jae-Kuk Ryu at 4.80 (Marquis' at 4.95).

If the Cubs could get those performances from those other 6 pitchers, it still wouldn't be the end of the world if Zambrano goes down. Last year, league average ERA for Cubs' pitchers was 4.63; so the top 4 project to be around league average. That would mean that the Cubs would be average or above in all rotation slots. Of course, there's no way in hell everyone would meet those projections. Ryu's bricked; Mateo might not even really be considered as an option and even if he is, he might not be capable of putting up many innings; and I have my doubts that Marquis could keep his ERA under 5.

Still, I'd imagine that if Zambrano goes down the Cubs would be okay. They'd have a slightly below average starting staff and an above average bullpen. Combined with a slightly above average offense, you're still probably not looking at a 72 win team. If Hill or Lilly goes down on top of Zambrano...then things would start to get a little ugly. We'd have to hope that one of Prior, Veal or Gallagher would be ready to step up. (Or, if you're wildly optimistic, Angel Guzman.)

Even with another poor-hitting bench, the 2007 team should not perform any worse in this area.

I'm not really sure about this year's bench compared to 2004. I guess that Theriot, Cedeno and Blanco will be collectively around replacement level with the bat. Theriot's outstanding 134 ABs in 2006 gives me a faint sliver of hope that he could go all Uggla on the NL this season (in terms of overall performance not with Uggla's power). But Theriot has an inferior minor league track record. Whoever's left over from Jones, Floyd and Murton should be a good bat off the bench. And Daryle Ward should be pretty solid, too. Realistically, someone between Cedeno and Theriot should be in AAA, so that Scott Moore can back up 3B. I think it should be Cedeno with Derosa taking over backup SS duties. However it winds up working out, I don't see a lot of wins above replacement coming off the bench this season. If the bench is collectively replacement level, it's still an improvement over last season.
   38. Sparkles Peterson Posted: February 12, 2007 at 10:05 AM (#2295891)
I think any realistic 98 win scenario needs to begin with the Major League season being extended about 30 games.

Well, how many 66-win teams have gone on the kind of spending spree that the Cubs have?


Utterly irrelevant unless you think projection systems are wholly without merit and actually think that Soriano (A 3.5 to 4 WARP player in '04 and '05, basically what he's replacing in center), Lilly, De Rosa, and Marquis is the most talent ever brought onboard in one offseason. Chalk it up to me being a Cardinals fan if you want, but that $300 million seems to have added a question mark who will fall somewhere between "pretty good" and "very good," a league average starter, and a couple of journeymen that I consider very poor bets to remain in starting roles through next season.
   39. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 03:05 PM (#2295948)
And that's what Tom Skilling does on WGN on a nightly basis. People call those "weather forecasts."

--Well, they might, but Tom Skilling sure as hell doesn't. Weather forecasters are very careful about distinguishing "discussion" from "forecast".


Now you're just being obstinate. Check this out and note about halfway down the page (below his picture) where he gives tonight's forecast for Chicago (italics mine):

"Cloudy with snow becoming likely after midnight. Snow may be heavy at times after midnight...with areas of blowing snow. Snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches. Blustery. Lows 16 to 20. Northeast winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts to around 35 mph. Chance of precipitation 70 percent."

(Yes, that forecast bothers me.) Check out the Weather Channel, who refer to their 36-hour forecast by couching events as having a certain percentage chance of taking place (i.e., "chance of snow 60%").

These people understand that there are ranges of events that could take place. Underlying their message is their understanding that there may be a 70% chance of Chicago getting some snow, perhaps a 20% chance that it's an inch, a 30% chance of it being 2 inches, another 20% that it's 3 inches, . . . and eventually perhaps a 5% chance of Chicago getting a foot of snow and a 1% chance of two feet. In the end, what they present is their prediction of what they believe is most likely to happen. (In Nate Silver's case, when he gets to this point, he refers to his "weighted mean.")

The only difference between what they are doing and what you are doing is that they are giving the most likely scenario, whereas you are giving the most optimistic scenario. Heck, they are even telling you the chances of something taking place ("chance of snow 70%"), just as you are saying that the chance of these events taking place and therefore the Cubs winning 95 games is 5%. Although you don't explicitly use these words, what you are essentially saying is that "if these events take place, I predict that the Cubs could win 95-98 games."


I think people who project baseball performance could learn a thing or two from folks like Tom Skilling. In my opinion, the mediocre forecasters just give you a forecast that you are supposed to accept without discussing caveats or their level of confidence in it. In these cases, it's pretty much just model output with no critical thinking. The good ones (and I think Skilling is one of them) give you a forecast, but they also give you a sense of the weaknesses in the forecast and other scenarios that might occur.

They do that -- they forecast 1-3 inches of snow, then say "chance of precipitation 70 percent." Meanwhile, what you are doing is is forecasting 95-98 wins, with the caveat that this best case scenario has a 5% chance of occurring. Same freaking thing.

BTW, I'm sorry we've gone so far off on this tangent. At it's core, it is a debate over semantics that is oblique from the main thrust of your post.


I will suggest, though, that when it comes to baseball, things like luck matter enormously and lend a high range of error to any assessments.

--That's correct. But for purposes of discussion, it isn't saying much that the Cubs could win 98 games if they outpace the Pythagorean (inasmuch as that is about luck) by 10 wins or something. That's why I invoked a moderate Pythagorean boost that is probably of average magnitude on the positive side.


Yeah, but perhaps I didn't state my point clearly enough. What I was trying to say is that because of error rates inherent in any forecast/prediction/projection/whatever, when you say that in the Cubs best case scenario, they could win 95-98 games, I think you can say that for many other teams as well -- perhaps 20 teams, including the Pirates. Obviously it won't be the "best case scenario" for some teams (i.e., Twins) and will be beyond the best case for others (i.e., Royals), but for most teams, the top end of their projection would likely be in the 95-98 win range.
   40. Spahn Insane Posted: February 12, 2007 at 03:56 PM (#2295990)
AR and dJF, I like both of you a lot, but this breast-for-tat (take that, CyberNanny) between you to is a huge waste of bandwidth.
   41. zonk Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:10 PM (#2296000)
To get teh to 98 -- the Cubs need injury help... namely, injuries to Marquis and Izturis.
   42. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:11 PM (#2296002)
Actually, I agree. We're both pretty stubborn over what is really a small, incidental point.
   43. Gaelan Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:15 PM (#2296006)
I put the chances of the Cubs winning 98 games to be equivalent to their chances of winning 120 games. Impossible.

Why?

They have the worst fifth starter in baseball.
Mark Prior is no longer Mark Prior
Rich Hill is not on the verge of being a Cy Young contender

The list could go on. That list of things that has to happen for the Cubs to win 98 games is completely ridiculous. The Cubs have one ace, one decent pitcher, one unknown pitcher, one injured/bad pitcher and one horrible pitcher. They are going to get below average production out of the corners and terrible production out of the middle infield. The only thing keeping them out of the basement is that the Reds have the worst general manager in the history of time and the Pirates are actively trying to lose.
   44. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:16 PM (#2296007)
You can't say ###?
   45. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:38 PM (#2296025)
They have the worst fifth starter in baseball.

Who's the Washington Nationals fifth starter and what does he project to do?

They are going to get below average production out of the corners

Infield or outfield? Either way, I think you're wrong. ZIPS says

DLee .299/.383/.567
ARam .296/.355/.559
JJones .263/.320/.456
MMurton .299/.361/.446
CFloyd .261/.350/.469 (in Shea)

That looks perfectly fine, and in the case of the last three, understates what they could do if they're platooned. For comparison, the Astros $100 million man is projected to hit .288/.344/.485 in Minute Maid Park.

The Cubs have one ace, one decent pitcher, one unknown pitcher, one injured/bad pitcher and one horrible pitcher.

In other words, they have a league-average starting rotation.
   46. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:47 PM (#2296028)
Utterly irrelevant unless you think projection systems are wholly without merit and actually think that Soriano (A 3.5 to 4 WARP player in '04 and '05, basically what he's replacing in center), Lilly, De Rosa, and Marquis is the most talent ever brought onboard in one offseason.

You might be right that the acquisitions aren't really adding that much talent. But adding around two and a half wins from Soriano is a pretty big upgrade. Lilly & possible even Marquis will be pretty big upgrades, too. More importntly, the Cubs' played Todd Walker at 1B last season. They played Cedeno & Mabry, who were both in the bottom ten in VORP. Almost half their of Cubs starts were made by Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, Les Walrond, bad Mark Prios, Glendon Rusch and Juan Mateo. And they still finished with a 98 ERA+, which was better than the Cardinal's.

Utterly irrelevant unless you think projection systems are wholly without merit and actually think that Soriano (A 3.5 to 4 WARP player in '04 and '05, basically what he's replacing in center), Lilly, De Rosa, and Marquis is the most talent ever brought onboard in one offseason.

Yes, the top range of projections for any team are probably in the 95-98 win range. But the Cubs have a meaningfully better shot at 98 wins than the Pirates. The Pirates' lower team projection means they'd have to finish say 4-5 standard deviations above their projection than the 2-3 the Cubs would have to. (Numbers made up here, but intended to give the flavor of what's going on.) That's the difference between a meaningful non-zero chance at winning 98 for the Cubs (the 5% number sounds fine to me) and a small fraction of a percent chance that the Pirates would have.

I'm not good at statistics, but someone could actually do the calculation. I'd bet that the Cubs would be something like 20+ times more likely to win 98 than the Pirates.
   47. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 12, 2007 at 04:58 PM (#2296032)
The Cubs have one ace, one decent pitcher, one unknown pitcher, one injured/bad pitcher and one horrible pitcher.

I'd rather have an unknown who has performed as well as Rich Hill than an unknown like El Duque or even Mike Pelfrey. As for Ted Lilly, his ERA+s the last three years have been 120, 80 and 109. He projects to be above average. DeRosa projects to be fine, though I could see him falling short of his projection. With Theriot and especially Eric Patterson in the wings, if DeRosa tanks, the Cubs will have some options. Izturis sucks, but he's the Cubs' only significantly below average starter. With above averageness from Lee, Ramirez, Barrett and Soriano, they can survive playing Izturis.
   48. Spahn Insane Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:01 PM (#2296033)
That list of things that has to happen for the Cubs to win 98 games is completely ridiculous.

Are you saying it's ridiculous to suggest that the Cubs would win 98 games if those things happened, or that suggesting that those things will happen is ridiculous in and of itself? If the latter, then let's take a look:

- An average of at least 190 IP out of their top four starters

This is hardly a certainty, but it's not a ridiculous forecast. Zambrano's averaged 215 IP a year for 4 years, Lilly's averaged 171 (one season of 126.1 hurts him), Hill has never had any major injury issues. There's no reason that threesome can't average 190 well-above-average IP. The sticking point, obviously, is whether Marquis can pitch well enough to be considered an adequate #4 (dubious), or whether Prior can return to not his '03 self, but make 25-30 starts with an ERA below 4. (And there's the possibility of Miller contributing; he was a good pitcher before he got hurt, and he looked pretty good in his brief return at the end of last year. And the rookies who got thrown into the fire last year don't figure to be any worse; one could step up. Things don't have to go perfectly for the Cubs to have at least an adequate or even above average rotation.)

- One of those four is Mark Prior, who makes a serious step back toward 2003

See above; I basically combine the first 2 possibilities into one.

- Zambrano meets/exceeds projections

Not ridiculous in the least. Indeed, likely.

- The bullpen falls into place behind the starters and posts solidly above average numbers

Not unlikely at all. You don't think a pen of Howry, Eyre, Ohman, Wuertz, Dempster and Cotts has a significant chance of being above average?

- The Cubs average 150 starts from Ramirez, Lee and Soriano, each of whom meets or exceeds projections

Note that AR said "meets or exceeds projections,, not career bests. In other words, we're not talking Soriano's '06 or Lee's '05 here; they can fall well short of their peaks and be significant assets. Lee and Soriano both have excellent records of durability; Lee's injury last year was a fluke. Even Ramirez, with his cranky groin and whatnot, isn't exactly Cliff Floyd; hell, he's been a hell of a lot more durable than Scott Rolen the last 2 years, his offense has been consistently excellent since he arrived in Chicago, and he's only 28.

- No serious decline from Barrett

Some decline's not impossible, as Barrett's a catcher who'll be 31 in October, but (1) his established level of performance is already very good for a catcher; he doesn't have to hit as well as he did last year to be an asset, and (2) he's a fairly recently converted catcher. His body does not have the mileage on it that most 31-year-old catchers have, which suggests that his age-related decline will occur later than we might expect from your average catcher.

- No position is a black hole (i.e., worse than replacement level)

The only position where the Cubs are likely to be significantly below average offensively for the position is shortstop (and Izturis should at least be a significant defensive asset). DeRosa projects as an ordinary but serviceable 2B. Jones might be slightly below average for a corner OF, but the combination of Murton/Floyd is likely to be above-average, if not star-quality.

- A few wins from St. Pythagoras

Impossible to project almost by definition, but if they can lose a few games to the Pythag as they did last year, they can win 'em back this year. And as others have pointed out, Piniella has some history of lighting fires under moribund teams, so there's some reason for optimism there.

So really, other than the back end of the rotation, AR's NOT talking about longshots--he's talking about pretty reasonable (and in some cases, likely) eventualities. Now, you might argue that this doesn't get the Cubs to 98 wins, but that's another argument. I disagree with the characterization of the corners as below average (I assume you meant OF corners, as there's no way in hell Ramirez or Lee projects to be below average); if Murton loses time to Floyd, it'll be because Floyd's healthy and producing; if he plays full time, he's likely to be at least an average LF (and I happen to think he'll be a good deal better than that). Jones is no better than an average corner OF, but that's partially offset by Soriano being well above average for a CF.

I think projecting the Cubs as an 86-89 win team is entirely reasonable, and that given the vagaries of Pythagorus and luck, potentially better than that.
   49. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:07 PM (#2296037)
Zambrano meets/exceeds projections

--Not ridiculous in the least. Indeed, likely.


I think by it's very definition, it is likely that Zambrano will at least meet his "projection."
   50. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:12 PM (#2296043)
[O]ther than the back end of the rotation, AR's NOT talking about longshots--he's talking about pretty reasonable (and in some cases, likely) eventualities.

The back end of the rotation is a pretty important eventuality -- more important, I submit, than whether Barrett declines.

In any event, while some of these events are certainly within the realm of reasonableness, keep in mind that for Andere's 95-98 win scenario to take place, ALL of them need to happen. When you compound them, the chances greatly diminish.
   51. Spahn Insane Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:13 PM (#2296045)
And I didn't even get into the bench, which looks to be vastly improved over John F. Mabry and the seven dwarves, with Ward, Theriot, Cedeno, Blanco and whichever of Murton, Jones or Floyd isn't starting.
   52. Swedish Chef Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:14 PM (#2296047)
The probability of 8 non-ridiculous things happening at once can be pretty ridiculous.
   53. Spahn Insane Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:14 PM (#2296048)
In any event, while some of these events are certainly within the realm of reasonableness, keep in mind that for Andere's 95-98 win scenario to take place, ALL of them need to happen. When you compound them, the chances greatly diminish.

Yes. And I acknowledge that a couple of them are pretty iffy, which is why I only project them as an 86-89 win team.
   54. cardsfanboy Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:17 PM (#2296050)
hey retro, I already did that in post 27 :)

I don't think any of his suggestions are ridiculous, I just am not sure that would put them at 95 wins or not. I think you have to project a couple of extremes for 95. Either Lee or Soriano repeat their career year, that marquis posts a 90 or higher era+ (which isn't actually out of the question when you realize how much he was hurt because he was left in two games where the bullpen was decimated and took a major pounding just to get to the sixth inning)
   55. Spahn Insane Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:20 PM (#2296052)
hey retro, I already did that in post 27 :)

Yeah, but I wanted people to hear it from the totally biased perspective of an actual Cub fan. :)
   56. dcsmyth1 Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:32 PM (#2296063)
Somebody earlier wrote that he doesn't like to consider the team's W/L in the prior season. But that's a good way to get a 'sanity check'. Most teams will regress about 50% to the mean from the prior year. So, that gets the Cubs to 74. If you want to double that because the Cubs made more changes than the typical bad team, that gets them to .500. To get an additional 17 wins, something else has to happen besides the things posted. Something completely unexpected. Say, Pie wins a job and has an MVP type season and R Hill wins the Cy Young.
   57. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:42 PM (#2296069)
Something completely unexpected.

At this point in his career, wouldn't you have to say that 200IP/3.50 ERA from Prior would be "completely unexpected"? Given a choice, I might be inclined to bet on a Rich Hill Cy Young Award as being more likely (not that I'm predicting such a thing, mind you).
   58. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:44 PM (#2296073)
Somebody earlier wrote that he doesn't like to consider the team's W/L in the prior season. But that's a good way to get a 'sanity check'. Most teams will regress about 50% to the mean from the prior year.

In Post 4, Andere said that "In all seriousness, I wouldn't look to previous season win totals as a significant factor in estimating the odds of a team winning a particular number of games." Later (in Post 8), he justified this because he believes "[w]e already have an unusual set of circumstances in place."

While I understand his point, I'm not so sure one can completely discount last season's W/L record. To say that the Cubs are different because they've made several changes overlooks the fact that most teams make changes to their lineups in the offseason, particularly those who fared poorly the past season. The Plexiglass Principle takes this into account -- if he was only looking at teams that kept largely the same rosters, it wouldn't be all that worthy or useful an observation.
   59. dcsmyth1 Posted: February 12, 2007 at 05:57 PM (#2296085)
-----"At this point in his career, wouldn't you have to say that 200IP/3.50 ERA from Prior would be "completely unexpected"?"

It may be unexpected, but it's certainly not 'out of left field'. All it requires is for him to have a healthy season.
   60. cardsfanboy Posted: February 12, 2007 at 06:07 PM (#2296092)
I forgot to mention that the cubs bench got better with the addition of Jason Marquis, the cubs now have the winners of the last two silver sluggers for pitchers. (jason has 24 career pinch hit appearances and posted a line of .286 .318 .429 .747 )

I have to agree with the optimistic cub fans that the plexiglass princple doesn't really apply that much to the cubs. It applies to an extent, just like it applies to all team as dejesusfreak mentions since it assumes some changes are made. Reason why good teams regress is that they think they are better than they are and make few changes while poor teams make more positive changes, but few teams make as many changes as the cubs did and already had as strong of a talent base as the cubs did to begin with. The Cubs were quite possibly the most talented 66 win team in history that was somewhat predictibly decimated by pitching injuries. 15 different starting pitchers last year, only one pitcher with over 160 ip, only 3 with over 100. 2nd most starts on the team? sean marshall 24 posting an 83 ERA+. they got 39 more starts with pitchers who all posted below 90ERA+ No wonder why Marquis had value to them, getting 32 starts with a 90 era+ is actually appealing.

I honestly don't see any way this team doesn't win 81 games, heck without making one roster change from last year they probably would have come close to winning 81 games, injuries killed this team. Freak injury to derrek lee-their best player- hurts big time, 151 games out of a rookie hitting 53 ops+ also doesn't help, but once it was apparent the season was over why not get him some experience.
   61. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 12, 2007 at 06:19 PM (#2296095)
151 games out of a rookie hitting 53 ops+ also doesn't help

This is a good point. People like to point out that Izturis is a terrible hitter (and he is) and that Marquis is a terrible pitcher (and he is), but both of these guys represent <u>improvements</u> over the guys on the 2006 Cubs that they're replacing. Neither guy's worth his salary, and in both cases, the Cubs probably could have found even better replacements, but if you're going to insist on using the 2006 Cubs as your baseline, then it's worth noting that these two guys are probably worth a win or two over the 2006 Cubs shortstop(s)/4th or 5th starter.
   62. Dan The Mediocre Posted: February 12, 2007 at 06:22 PM (#2296099)
-----"At this point in his career, wouldn't you have to say that 200IP/3.50 ERA from Prior would be "completely unexpected"?"

It may be unexpected, but it's certainly not 'out of left field'. All it requires is for him to have a healthy season.


With Prior seeing someone who has some skill in medicine, I think his chances of coming back are significantly non-zero.
   63. CrosbyBird Posted: February 12, 2007 at 06:29 PM (#2296106)
This is an interesting year for the Cubs. We're going to see if Soriano really elevated his game in 2006, or had a spike season. We're going to get a better idea who the real Derrek Lee is (2005? 2004? something in between?) Has Michael Barrett finally put it all together, and if so, will he stay healthy?

Even so, the Cubs have a very strong 3-4-5, and one of the best pitchers in baseball as their ace. This team should be competitive at least for the wild-card. The division has probably gotten tougher, though. The Cardinals will be better in 2007 unless they get very unlucky on the injury front. The Astros will improve offensively, at least in 2007. And if Sheets stays healthy, the Brewers could be a real sleeper. The only certainty is that the Pirates will be awful.

The 200IP/<3.5ERA for Prior is pretty extreme. We're still not sure if Prior will be ready when the season starts.
   64. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: February 12, 2007 at 07:02 PM (#2296160)
Somebody earlier wrote that he doesn't like to consider the team's W/L in the prior season. But that's a good way to get a 'sanity check'. Most teams will regress about 50% to the mean from the prior year. So, that gets the Cubs to 74. If you want to double that because the Cubs made more changes than the typical bad team, that gets them to .500. To get an additional 17 wins, something else has to happen besides the things posted. Something completely unexpected. Say, Pie wins a job and has an MVP type season and R Hill wins the Cy Young.

I think that your views represent very logical assumptions but ignore the empirical evidence. Teams often make huge leaps in the standings from one season to another. As others have mentioned here before, the Cubs especially have a pattern of contending for the playoffs after having failed miserably the previous year:

The 1984 team was 25 games better than 1983
The 1989 team was 16 games better than 1988
The 1998 team was 21 games better than 1997
The 2001 team was 23 games better than 2000
The 2003 team was 21 games better than 2002

The Cubs have made more significant additions this offseason than they had leading up to any of those contending years. We shouldn't expect a 25-30 win increase, but I don't see why considering such a large boost in a single year would be lacking in sanity.
   65. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 12, 2007 at 10:27 PM (#2296331)
Lots of good discussion here and I will let dJf have the last word and stop arguing. I will try to post some more responses later, but one quick shot:

The probability of 8 non-ridiculous things happening at once can be pretty ridiculous.

Absolutely. However, I think there are many other solutions that would get us to the same place. Enough that I think Cubs fans can look at a win total in the high 90s as within the spectrum of possibilities they can entertain in their heads for 2007, without resorting to the use of Schedule II narcotics.
   66. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: February 12, 2007 at 11:16 PM (#2296373)
Lots of good discussion here and I will let dJf have the last word and stop arguing.

Actually, I was planning on doing the same. I promised myself that if you responded, I would have said "fine, you win." In a way, I suppose that I did let you have the last word . . . at least until this post. :-)

Perhaps we're just getting stir-crazy because nothing really important is going on at the moment.

Actually, has anyone heard the progress (if any) on getting Zambrano signed?
   67. dcsmyth1 Posted: February 13, 2007 at 12:30 AM (#2296411)
----"The 1984 team was 25 games better than 1983
The 1989 team was 16 games better than 1988
The 1998 team was 21 games better than 1997
The 2001 team was 23 games better than 2000
The 2003 team was 21 games better than 2002
_______________________________________________________________________

Are you trying to say that there is something unique about the Cubs franchise, such that these numbers are more telling than the typical regression to the mean of all teams? If so, you had better explain why. I don't think it has anything to do with the "C" on their batting helmets. If you are going to intentionally selectively sample a handful of examples, at least have the decency to explain why you think it is OK/meaningful to do so.
   68. dcsmyth1 Posted: February 13, 2007 at 12:36 AM (#2296416)
Besides, a 32 win improvement is about 11 games better than the avg of those selectively sampled teams. I haven't looked at the 'graph' of yearly improvements, but my guess is that there is a huge probability difference between a 21 game and a 32 game impriovement.
   69. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: February 13, 2007 at 01:28 AM (#2296470)
Are you trying to say that there is something unique about the Cubs franchise, such that these numbers are more telling than the typical regression to the mean of all teams?

No, not at all. These numbers are not meant to represent any sort of prediction or statement that regression to the mean does not apply equally to the Cubs as it does to other teams. I agree that the Cubs will likely improve somewhat over last year's record on this principle alone, and I don't doubt that the typical team experiences a regression effect approximating the magnitude you claim. My point was that, although large spikes in win totals are not the statistical expectation, they are hardly rare.

I don't follow the annual win totals of other franchises as closely, but I can say that the Cubs have frequently seen their record improve and decline dramatically from one year to the next. My conjecture would be that they are not alone. The Tigers surged 24 games last year, and in 2004 they improved by 29. You could say that much of their 2004 improvement can be explained by regression to the mean, but last year's rise to the top of the standings is nothing of the sort. You said that very substantial gains outside of regression to the mean would require absurd contingencies such as Pie posting an MVP-caliber season and Hill winning the Cy Young. I don't think this is true. Teams that have added much less talent than the 2007 Cubs have experienced meteoric rises to the top of the standings without MVP and Cy Young seasons appearing out of the blue. Such reversals of fortune seem quite improbable by statistical averages, but one need not look very hard to find numerous examples of them.

I specifically said that we cannot expect the Cubs to experience an improvement of this magnitude. Instead, I claimed that my selective sample illustrates how it is not ridiculous to consider such a spike within the realm of possibility without any outrageous contingencies such as Jason Marquis posting a 150 ERA+ or Mark DeRosa hitting for the Triple Crown. This is where I believe our views differ, and I don't think that there's anything indecent in this application of the examples I cited.
   70. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 13, 2007 at 01:53 AM (#2296488)
Besides, a 32 win improvement is about 11 games better than the avg of those selectively sampled teams. I haven't looked at the 'graph' of yearly improvements, but my guess is that there is a huge probability difference between a 21 game and a 32 game impriovement.

I really don't like this idea because it assumes too much dependence between a team's performance from one year to the next. That is going to vary drastically. Plus, you have to consider how aberrant the 2006 Cubs were. They underperformed their DMB projection by 19 games, by far the most in baseball.

Sure, it would be remarkable for any team to sport a +32 year to year improvement. But the situation is already remarkable.
   71. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 13, 2007 at 02:01 AM (#2296490)
151 games out of a rookie hitting 53 ops+ also doesn't help

This is a good point. People like to point out that Izturis is a terrible hitter (and he is) and that Marquis is a terrible pitcher (and he is), but both of these guys represent improvements over the guys on the 2006 Cubs that they're replacing.


I'm not so sure about this claim about Marquis, as incredible as it might seem, but it is truly amazing that a team could pencil in Cesar Izturis as its starting shortstop and project a very significant improvement in offense. That's the way it is when you sport a team OPS of .598 at SS.

I don't follow the annual win totals of other franchises as closely, but I can say that the Cubs have frequently seen their record improve and decline dramatically from one year to the next.

I don't know if it means anything, but in the last ten seasons, the Cubs have won between 69 and 87 games ONCE. That was 2005. In that period, they won more than 87 games four times, and fewer than 87 six times. My guess is that this has never happened before.
   72. Weeks T. Olive Posted: February 13, 2007 at 02:21 AM (#2296511)
Actually, has anyone heard the progress (if any) on getting Zambrano signed?

There hasn't been any news since the various outlets reported that it is quite possible his case will go to arb. I imagine we'll hear something (good or bad) this week, as his arbitration hearing is currently scheduled for Feb. 20.
   73. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 13, 2007 at 04:50 AM (#2296637)
This is a good point. People like to point out that Izturis is a terrible hitter (and he is) and that Marquis is a terrible pitcher (and he is), but both of these guys represent improvements over the guys on the 2006 Cubs that they're replacing.


I'm not so sure about this claim about Marquis

I admit it's selective to just take the worst slot of starts, but the Cubs had 31 starts made by guys with ERAs over 7. It would take full health from the rotation in order to make it truly comparitive, but the best you can do as far as quickly projecting improvements, would have to say Marquis is an improvement in the 5 spot.
   74. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 13, 2007 at 04:54 AM (#2296640)
And a quick look at BR shows that every one of those pitchers look even worse when you remove their relief appearances. There was a lot of sub replacement pitching going on last year.
   75. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 13, 2007 at 05:53 AM (#2296653)
My prediction on Marquis is that he will put up a 90 or better ERA+ this year. No, I have no scientific basis for that belief.
   76. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 13, 2007 at 06:00 AM (#2296658)
My prediction on Marquis is that he will put up a 90 or better ERA+ this year.

The Cubs got 82 starts last year by guys who ended up with an ERA+ of 90 or better. They had 46 starts made by guys who finished with ERAs higher than Marquis (6.02). He's not worth $7 million and I would prefer that he not be on my favorite team, but I'm telling you, he's an improvement over the 2006 Cubs starting rotation.
   77. Dan The Mediocre Posted: February 13, 2007 at 06:04 AM (#2296659)
I think that Marquis will be turned around by Rothschild and post a 120 ERA+.

Did I type "think"? I meant to type "laugh at the ridiculously small chance".
   78. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 13, 2007 at 06:46 AM (#2296668)
I think that Marquis will be turned around by Rothschild and post a 120 ERA+.

Did I type "think"? I meant to type "laugh at the ridiculously small chance".


I know that this statement isn't necessarily a criticism of Rothschild as much as a statement of the crappiness of Marquis, but I'd like to defend him anyway. Clement became a good pitcher under Rothschild. Zambrano has so far exceeded his minor league numbers. Rusch had a couple of solid seasons with the Cubs. Borowski had the best seasons of his career. Dempster has had his best seasons since his injury. Wuertz has been pretty decent. I don't know what part, if any, of that success is attributable to Rothschild; still, to the extent that Cubs' starting pitchers have disappointed, it's mostly been due to injury.

I guess Juan Cruz, Alfonseca, Farnsworth, Leicester, Wellemeyer, Andy Pratt, maybe Van Buren and the 2006 parade of rookies have all been disappointments since Rothschild became pitching coach. But none of them have proven able to perform consistently well at the big league level. (Wellemeyer and Cruz had good 2006 season, but have both had bad stops with other organizations since leaving the Cubs.)

Sure, the notion of Rothschild turning Marquis into a top starter is laughable, but I still have a hard time calling him bad at what he does. I wouldn't say he's good, either. For the most part, Cubs pitchers have met or exceeded expectations since Rothschild has become pitching coach. Some have been injured, others inconsistent & some have imploded after some initial success, but that's often just the nature of the beast.
   79. Bunny Vincennes Posted: February 13, 2007 at 03:51 PM (#2296803)
I'm picking the Milwaukee Brewers to win the division. You heard it here first.
   80. nagurski Posted: February 13, 2007 at 04:44 PM (#2296841)
Why should the Cubs sign Zambrano? How many simulated games has he thrown in the last three seasons? His MRI is under 3. He just doesn't fit on this Cubs staff.
   81. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 13, 2007 at 06:45 PM (#2296933)
I wouldn't be surprised if the Brewers won the division, since they have a lot of talent and I think the NL Central might be pretty weak overall. That said, the Brewers weren't a whole lot better than the Cubs last season and have done less to improve themselves in the offseason. Granted, the Brewers have enough young talent that they could just count on internal solutions and improvement from their youngsters to be a better team this season.

The Cubs' and Brewers' rotations are comparable; I think the Brewers have more depth while the Cubs have a better top of the rotation. The Brewers will need to sort out who's playing where on offense and hope for good, injury free seasons from Sheets, Hart, Braun and Weeks, as well as a step forward from Fielder. All of that might take another season to sort itself out. Maybe a low to mid-80s projection for 2007 and upper 80s to 90+ after.
   82. Howie Menckel Posted: June 18, 2007 at 11:48 PM (#2408485)
Four months later, I gotta go with the "under" on that 98-win scenario pitched here in February.
Preseason - when hope springs eternal, even among Cubs fans.

Can't wait to catch a couple of Cubs games in the Friendly Confines next month...
   83. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 01, 2007 at 05:16 PM (#2553078)
Just to toot my own horn:

75. A Surfeit of Peaches Graham (SdeB) Posted: February 13, 2007 at 01:53 AM (#2296653)
My prediction on Marquis is that he will put up a 90 or better ERA+ this year. No, I have no scientific basis for that belief.


I suspect Marquis will be starting at some point or other in these playoffs.

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