2018 Chicago Cubs Expert Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
After the dust settled on the Chicago Cubs' miraculous 2016 World Series title, the Wrigley faithful were left scratching their heads last season in dismay. The Cubs followed up a phenomenal 2016 regular season by winning 11 games fewer (103-58 in 2016, to 92-70 in 2017). Don't get me wrong, a 92-70 record is brilliant, but there were several extended periods of time where the Cubs struggled and looked like a shell of their 2016 self. At the all-star break, the Cubs were two games below .500 and eight games back of the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers. While the Cubs managed to stop the bleeding and win the Central Division by six games, the damage had already been done and the Cubs failed to defend their World Series crown after they bowed out to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
To get the Cubs back into the World Series discussion, management was able to lure in Yu Darvish from free agency. He struggled mightily in last season's World Series, but his ability will help the Cubs fill the void left by the departing Jake Arrieta.
This year, the Cubs open the regular season with 10 straight road games, starting with a three-game set versus Miami on March 29. From there, the Cubs will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Reds for three and then Milwaukee for four against the Brewers. The Cubs first home game comes on April 9 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs are the fourth betting favorite to win their second World Series title in three years at +750. They also check in at +375 to win the NL and -175 to win the NL Central.
All odds are courtesy of Bovada.
Cubs 2018 Projected Lineup
The 2018 batting order is one again littered with all-star talent. The projected batting lineup features the same eight position players that helped the Cubs to another 90+ win season and a 5.1 run per game average, which was third in the Majors.
This year's lineup should look something like this:
1. Albert Almora
2. Kris Bryant
3. Anthony Rizzo
4. Willson Contreras
5. Kyle Schwarber
6. Addison Russell
7. Jason Heyward
8. Pitchers spot
9. Javier Baez
As you can see, the lineup is once again stacked from top to bottom. Bryant and Rizzo combined for 210 runs scores, 61 home runs and 182 RBIs last season. Bryant had the better average -0 .295 compared to .273 for Rizzo, but both players were feared when they stepped into the batters' box.
Behind them, Contreras is coming off a solid year where he posted .276 batting average to go along with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. With a healthy Schwarber batting behind him, I expect Contreras to continue to see plenty of good pitches to hit and have a similar, if not more productive, year this year.
Further down the lineup, Russell and Heyward combined for just 23 homers and 102 RBIs. I don't expect much more power from Russell, but Heyward was brought in on a hefty contract with one task; and that task is to generate offense. Behind him you'll find the pitchers spot, and batting ninth is second basemen Javier Baez. Maddon is known to like his ninth hitter to possess speed and to be the "de facto" lead off man for the power at the top of the order.
Cubs 2018 Projected Rotation & Closer
The Cubs rotation this year is going to look somewhat different than what we've come to expect over the last handful of seasons. Jake Arrieta, the one-time ace of the team, is currently without a deal -- as of this writing. One thing is for sure, though, Arrieta won't be back with the Cubs. As a fall-back plan, the Cubs aggressively pursued Darvish, and the Cubs were able to sign the free agent to a six-year deal worth $126 million.
Darvish figures to slot in right behind Jon Lester to open the season. Last year, Darvish split time between the Rangers and Dodgers, tossing 186.2 innings and posting a 10-12 record with a 3.86 ERA. Most of us will remember the Darvish that got smacked around in his two starts in the World Series, but when he is on he is nearly unhittable. He will be a solid addition to the rotation that already boasts Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.
Lester and Quintana figure to be the other two workhorses for the Cubbies this year, but don't overlook Hendricks or Chatwood. Chatwood came over from a hitter-friendly ballpark in Coors Field, so his numbers may look high. However, he pitched very well. Hendricks was an effective inning-eater for the Cubs last year, accumulating 140 innings pitched with a 7-5 record and a 3.03 ERA. If this rotation can be amongst the Top 5 in the league, with the offensive firepower the batting lineup possesses, the Cubs could be in for another great season.
The one spot I look at as a weakness is the bullpen. Wade Davis posted 32 saves last year for the Cubs, but he has since moved on to Colorado. As of writing this, closer duties will fall on the shoulders of Brandon Morrow, who comes over after a stint with the LA Dodgers. Aside from the new closer, the Cubs still have Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop to trot out in the late innings, which, depending on the day, could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Cubs 2018 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Chicago to finish with a better record than last year by two games. They project a 94-68 finish, which would capture them another division title and make them the best team in the National League. In my opinion, this is completely possible, but there are two main causes for concern, the first being the bullpen. With no bonifide closer, no lead will be safe if there is pressure on Rondon or Strop to close ball games. The second concern is the competition. While the Cubs went out and got a stud pitcher, the rest of the roster remains the same, and being stagnant in a league that consistently gets better is a recipe for disaster. The Cubs win total is hoovering at 94.5 ("under" -130), so it would be hard to justify a play on either side.
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