March 27, 2017
Extreme Makeover: National League Edition
Every season necessarily brings with it change. Players become old and ineffective and are replaced by promising rookies. The injured get healthy and the healthy get injured. Some players exit via trade, waiver, and release, and some arrive by the same routes. Turnover is inevitable.
Take, for example, Your World Champion Chicago Cubs. Good team, right? Won 103 games in the regular season, and then another 11 in the postseason. That’s a team that’s hardly a candidate for hitting the reset button. Yet, comparing the team’s actual 2016 results with our playing time projections, there are some significant changes:
The Cubs, excluding pitchers, had 5,925 plate appearances last season. The table above lists 1,548 plate appearances in 2016 by players who won’t get them in 2017 and 1,523 plate appearances projected in 2017 that will be taken by players who didn’t get them in 2016. (The numbers aren’t equal because projections don’t assume precisely same number of team plate appearances in successive years.) The average of those figures, 1,536, represents a shift of nearly 26 percent. Granted, a lot of it is shuffling roles for incumbent players (more Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras, less Miguel Montero and Matt Szczur), but that still is a lot of change.
Same story with the pitching staff. Cubs pitchers threw 1,459.2 innings last season. We’re projecting 409 of them (405.2 lost, 411.2 gained)—that’s 28 percent—to turn over. The list of pitchers is pretty long, so I’ve included only those projected to pitch 20 or more innings in 2016 or 2017.