2019 Chicago Cubs Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
Has any marquee MLB franchise had a worse offseason than the Chicago Cubs?
Actually, let's go back to October. Chicago had a chance to finish with the National League's top seed but lost a game No. 163 at home to the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-1, to hand that top seed and the NL Central title to the Brewers - a division the Cubs led by as many as 5.5 games in late August. Then, the Cubbies were beaten 2-1 at home in 13 innings by a clearly inferior Colorado Rockies team in the Wild-Card Game.
A few years ago, the Cubs winning 95 games and reaching the playoffs would have been cause for a parade. However, last year was nothing short of a disaster in failing to reach the NLCS for a fourth straight year.
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Because of the collapse, the team didn't give Manager Joe Maddon an extension and he's now a lame-duck guy. Whether by Maddon's choice or not, his staff also was overhauled.
Then recently, racist emails by Joe Ricketts, father of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and the guy who gave his kids the money to buy the team, were leaked. The Cubbies finally will have their own network in 2020 by partnering with Sinclair Broadcasting Group to start Marquee Sports Network, but that has been criticized for Sinclair's well-known right-wing leanings.
Finally, a franchise worth $3 billion did absolutely nothing this offseason in terms of additions. Why? Tom Ricketts simply said the Cubs couldn't afford it.
The Cubs open the season at the Texas Rangers on March 28.
Cubs 2019 Projected Lineup
Truly nothing to see here. Utility infielder Tommy LaStella and second baseman Daniel Murphy, a late-season trade acquisition, are both gone. The only lineup addition? Utility man Daniel Descalso on a two-year deal.
The offense was why the Cubs collapsed last season under former hitting coach Chili Davis. He has been replaced by unknown Anthony Iapoce, a former Rangers hitting coach who was a special assistant in the Cubs' front office from 2013-15, helping several of their current position players while overseeing the team's minor-league hitting program. What's ironic is that Iapoce is a disciple of John Mallee, who was replaced before last season by Davis.
Davis was hired essentially to help the Cubs strike out less and use the opposite field more to improve situational hitting - i.e. a lower launch angle on a swing. That worked a bit, but the Cubs' homers were way down and the team scored 61 fewer runs in 2018 than in 2017. Homers dropped by 57. Even team president Theo Epstein said the offense "broke" in the second half of last season.
What the Cubs largely are banking on are bounce-back seasons from former NL MVP Kris Bryant and All-Star catcher Willson Contreras. Bryant was hurt nearly all season and hit .272 with just 13 homers and 52 RBIs. Contreras had career lows in average (.249) and homers (10). Maybe those guys will bounce back, but can the Cubs expect another MVP-caliber season from Javy Baez? Or Ben Zobrist to hit better than .300 again?
The projected lineup will look something like this, although consider that Maddon shifts his guys around more than any manager so it could literally change daily: 2B Zobrist, 3B Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS Baez (until Addison Russell returns from suspension, then Baez could shift to second), OF Kyle Schwarber (won't play vs. nearly all lefties), C Contreras, OF Jason Heyward and OF Albert Almora Jr.
Cubs 2019 Projected Rotation & Closer
The pitching staff was just fine a season ago as the Cubs ranked third in the majors with a 3.65 ERA. Yet, pitching coach Jim Hickey - a long-time friend of Maddon's who also worked with him in Tampa Bay - was jettisoned (technically he stepped down for personal reasons). He has been replaced by another unknown, Tommy Hottovy.
The rotation shapes up as LHP Jon Lester, RHP Kyle Hendricks, LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Yu Darvish and LHP Jose Quintana.
Lester remains a stud and was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA last year but showed some signs of mortality and is 35. Hendricks was a solid 14-11 with a 3.44 ERA and should put up similar numbers. Hamels was excellent after coming over in trade from Texas so the Cubs picked up his $20 million option. He's also 35. Quintana is OK but has not been worth the bounty of prospects the Cubs sent to the White Sox in the summer of 2017.
Darvish is the big question as he was the major free-agent addition last offseason but made just eight starts due to injury and was 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA. If he stinks again, the Cubs are toast. Darvish reportedly is in a much better place both physically and mentally this spring. Who isn't?
The closer will be Brandon Morrow - when he's ready. The oft-injured righty missed the final three months of 2018 and will miss the start of 2019 after undergoing minor elbow surgery in November. Good pitcher, but how much can the team really count on him? Pedro Strop likely closes while Morrow is out, and the Cubs did add veteran reliever Brad Brach, who closed in the past in Baltimore.
Cubs Futures Odds
At 5Dimes , Chicago has a win total of 89.5, with the "under" a -120 favorite. The Cubs are slight +190 favorites to win the NL Central, +275 to reach the NLCS, +575 second-favorites for the pennant and +1200 to win the World Series.
Cubs 2019 Predictions
Crazy what a difference a year can make. This still looked like a potential dynasty entering last season, especially with the additions of Darvish and fellow pitcher Tyler Chatwood (a colossal bust). Now? There's no money (allegedly) and questions all over the place. I do expect bounce-back seasons from Bryant and Contreras, while Rizzo will be his usual 30-HR, 100-RBI self. Baez might not be quite as spectacular, but he appears to have figured things out.
FanGraphs projects the Cubs to win 87 games and win the Central by one. The division is much tougher this season. I will go under that 89.5-win total but say the Cubbies take the Central at something like 88-74. No pennant, however, barring the ability to add payroll through trades.
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