It may come as a bit of a surprise since the weather outside has been so abysmal lately, but Opening Day is indeed upon us, as the Chicago Cubs will kick off their season on Monday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
The Cubs will be looking to build upon a 2013 season that can only be viewed as a disappointment, even by the measure of where they are in their current rebuilding phase. Several players took big steps back, and the firing of Dale Sveum and the hiring of Rick Renteria to manage the club are an indicator that the front office feels the same way.
Rather than dwelling upon the negatives surrounding the team from last season, it would be more fun to just do some good old fashioned prognosticating, and thanks to Bovada, we have some over/unders to evaluate before the season gets underway.
Note: I didn’t do the over/unders for Jeff Samardzija or Edwin Jackson. Samardzija has an O/U of 215.5 strikeouts and 10.5 wins, while Jackson is pegged at 10.5 wins. Predicting pitcher statistics and wins is a bit of a fool’s errand, and even though I wouldn’t put any money on any of those, I’d end up taking the under on all of those.
Total Wins: 69.5
The Cubs won 66 games last season, and even though it was only a five win improvement over the 2012 season, it could have been a lot better. They blew a lot of leads early on in the season thanks to an awful bullpen, and they got some great pitching performances out of surprising guys like Scott Feldman in the early going that really made things interesting before the team’s summer swoon.
This season, logic would suggest that they won’t blow so many early season leads, so picking the Cubs to win at least 70 games seems like a smart one. I’ll go over on this one.
Starlin Castro: .285
This is a very interesting prop, not least of which because picking Castro to hit that number would mean that the bettor would have to be confident in his ability to add 40 points to his .245 average from the 2013 season. Castro hit over .300 in his first two seasons in the big leagues, but has gone down to .283 and .245 over the past two campaigns.
Even with the improvements he will make under Renteria, it still seems safe to say that he’ll settle somewhere in the .275 range, so I’ll go under here.
Nate Schierholtz: 16.5 HR
While bettors would have to assume an improvement on the part of Castro to hit his over/under target, you would have to think that Schierholtz would regress in order to bet the under on this one. He hit 21 home runs and drove in 68 runs last season for the Cubs, both of which were career highs for the 29-year old outfielder.
Hitting 20 again may be a tall order for a guy who had never hit more than nine in a season before 2013, but in Schierholtz’s case, his confidence at the plate this spring and his performance last year combine to give me a bit of optimism here. I’ll bet the over.
Anthony Rizzo: 26.5 HR, 87.5 RBI
Rizzo is a 66/1 underdog to hit the most home runs in baseball this year according to Bovada, but their statistical over-unders for the Cubs’ first baseman are pretty spot on. In his first full MLB season in 2013, Rizzo hit 23 home runs and racked up 80 RBI, and if he can improve modestly on both fronts, then he will hit his targets with ease.
In that case, I’m going for the over on both counts. I feel like Rizzo is a prime candidate to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90 runs, especially if a guy like Castro or Junior Lake can get on base in front of him.