Half-Way Home, a Look at Pre-Season Predictions

 

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY SportsOn New Year’s Day, I put together some predictions for the 2016 season. They were bold – I was riding high on the start-of-the-new-year excitement – but I was confident that none of them were particularly outlandish.  Now, with the All-Star break upon us, I wanted to take a few moments to see how I’m doing on my predictions to this point.

  1. The Cubs will win 100 games.

This one seemed almost the most silly of the whole bunch. Predicting a team to win 100 games is tricky business; so many things can happen over the course of a season that even those groups that look great on paper often falter. Not to mention the fact that so few teams actually win 100 games; there are lots of very strong teams that finish with 95-99 wins, but fail to crack the century mark.

Well, so far, so good. Eighty-eight games into the season – a smidge more than half-way through – the Cubs sit with a record of 53-35. That puts them on pace for 109 wins. And, mind you, this comes after a truly awful 24-game streak without an off-day in which the Cubs suffered mightily, losing 15 of the 24 games.

Verdict: On Pace

  1. Javier Baez will not finish the 2016 season in Chicago

I’m not quite so close on this one. Though we’ve still got a couple of weeks until the trade deadline and his name has been brought up in the rumors with New York regarding Andrew Miller, the Cubs have been relatively adamant as of late that he’ll be staying put. That’s likely not-so-indirectly tied to the fact that he’s played very well, reduced his strikeout rate significantly from last year and played gold-glove-caliber defense at multiple positions on the infield.

Given the team’s recent bullpen woes, it’s not out of the question that Baez gets moved for some bullpen help, but at this point I’d list it as pretty unlikely.

Verdict: Probably not happening

  1. Kyle Hendricks wins 15+ games, have an ERA less than 3.50.

Sixteen starts into his third big league season, I’m feeling pretty confident about this prediction. Though his record currently sits at only 7-6, that’s been the result of some truly horrendous (and quite confusing, considering this squad’s offensive prowess) run support for much of the season. His ERA currently sits at a sparkling 2.55 – which leads a Cubs team that features Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, and is good for sixth-best in all of baseball. Let that sink in for a minute.

So, while the 15 wins may or may not happen, based on run support, it looks like the sub-3.50 ERA prediction is right on track.

Verdict: On Pace

  1. Three (or more) Cubs will hit 30+ home runs

When Kyle Schwarber went down in the third game of the season, this prediction took a pretty significant hit. But, as it turns out, it still may not be out of the question. Heading into the All-Star break, there are two Cubs who are all but a sure shot to crack 30; one of them possibly before the month of July lets out.  Currently, Kris Bryant sits at 25 home runs, one shy of his 2015 total, and Anthony Rizzo is not far behind with 21. Almost without doubt, they’ll crack the 30 mark by seasons’ end.

Photo Credit Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After Rizzo and Bryant, however, things fall off pretty quick. Thanks to Jorge Soler’s limited playing time – and injury – he’s not going to come close. Schwarber is obviously out. Javier Baez has been hitting homers at a solid pace, but with only nine at the break, not to mention the fact that he doesn’t play every day, he’ll be lucky to crack 20. The best shot probably lies with Ben Zobrist, who currently has 13 long balls. Of course, he’s hardly a stereotypical home run hitter, and his swing isn’t really conducive to high-quantity home run output. So, will the Cubs get three 30-HR sluggers? Probably not. Will they get more? No way.

Verdict: Wrong

  1. The Cubs will advance to their first World Series since 1945

After leading all of baseball in just about everything all season long – up until the last week or two, when the Cubs entered their first real slide of the year – it looks like the Cubs are on a great pace. But, really, even that doesn’t mean much once the playoffs start. As of right now, the best anyone can really say is that – like meteorologists trying to predict tornadoes days in advance – the conditions are right for the Cubs to advance to the World Series. They’ve got personnel that can make it happen; they just have to do it.

Verdict: Wait and see