You know the Cubs are young. I mean, everybody has spent all offseason telling you that. But do you fully appreciate just how young they are? I don’t think you do. I don’t think you’ve spent enough time considering just how recently these young men came into this ever-turning world. This piece will change all of that, and it’ll also introduce a bold new projection system into a world sorely lacking more duplicative effort.
We’re going to project the 2016 season for seven young Cubs—all currently under the age of 26, and under the watchful eye of Joe Maddon—using two highly scientific methods. The first is PECOTA. You already know about that one, and so we won’t speak of it further. The other is this: We’ll identify the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 on the day each of these young men was born, and use it to project the season to come. I recognize this is a novel method. But each revolution has its trailblazers, and I intend to be a trailblazer of this Sonic Projection System (SPS). Come with me, then, on a journey into some truly regrettable musical choices. You may remember a few of these songs …
What The Beat Says: Let’s get this out of the way right up top. Prince is weird. Prince is also awesome, but it’s important to never let his awesomness draw attention away from his weirdness, which is where attention rightly belongs, when it comes to Prince. Judging from this song, which was the ninth and final track on the Batman soundtrack, it’s pretty clear that Anthony Rizzo’s 2016 will be weird in some odd, heretofore unexpected way. Perhaps he’ll steal 30 bases. Perhaps he’ll triple more often than he homers. Perhaps he’ll pitch an inning or two. The song’s funky message is clear: “You can do anything / you want to.” The question then becomes this: What does Rizzo want to do with this, his fourth full season in the majors?
What PECOTA Says: .261/.340/.430, 19 HR, .280 TAv, 4.5 WARP
What The Beat Says: Yes, the same song. The ink had barely dried on Anthony Rizzo’s birth certificate in Ft. Lauderdale when, some 1,000 miles north, Jason Heyward was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Does their shared birth under the Sign of the Prince mean that their 2016s will proceed in identical fashion? Hardly. SPS is more of an art than a science, and it’s really the interaction between the song and the man that foretells the future, not the song in isolation. For Heyward, the key element of “Batdance” is its origin story: Prince reportedly incorporated elements of 11 different songs into the finished product. Similarly, you can expect Heyward to be more than the sum of his parts in 2016, leveraging a complicated swing into an offensive profile that confounds as much as it delights.
What PECOTA Says: .264/.357/.505, 31 HR, .308 TAv, 4.8 WARP
What The Beat Says: “Black or White” is the fourth track on Dangerous, Michael Jackson’s 1991 masterpiece (?), and his first record in 15 years produced without Quincy Jones—a man now best known, at least to me, for providing half the genes that went into producing Rashida Jones. The song? The song is fine: It’s catchy, and singalongable, but it touches a little too lightly upon some very complicated issues that you sense it could say a bit more about if it let its guard down. That’s sort of Bryant, too: charming and approachable, but with a killer instinct hidden behind the smile. What does that mean for his 2016? More of the same, probably: “black and white” sounds a lot like a repeat of the boom or bust offensive profile the young slugger displayed last year. He’s flattened his swing path a little to adjust, but—given what this song is telling us about his future—it may not be enough.
What PECOTA Says: .252/.315/.438, 11 HR, .270 TAv, 0.6 WARP
What The Beat Says: Uh, it says that he’s too sexy for his shirt. You don’t need me to tell you that. It says he’s so sexy it hurts. And, I mean, who can disagree? There aren’t many 6-foot-4 men built like Soler, and there are even fewer who can hit the ball quite as far as he can. The concern, of course, is that this song is sending clear signals that Soler—like Right Said Fred—will be a one-hit wonder. I don’t think it means that. When evaluating projections, you always have to consider the source, and in this case I just don’t think we can trust the brothers Fairbrass (Fred and Richard) to fully grasp quite what this young Cuban can do if put in the right position to succeed. Look for Soler to make a big splash in Chicago this year—if not with the bat, which is still possible, then with the body. Chicago gets hot in the summertime.
What PECOTA Says: .236/.286/.444, 13 HR, .261 TAv, 0.8 WARP
What The Beat Says: Don’t give up on him. I mean, Whitney wouldn’t. Baez has seen his star dim in recent years, as an astonishingly high strikeout rate in 2014 (41.5 percent) destroyed whatever value he could provide by repeatedly spanking balls into distant galaxies. In some ways, this song is more appropriate for former-Cub Starlin Castro than it is for Baez (“Bittersweet memories / That is all I'm taking with me / So goodbye / Please, don't cry / We both know I'm not what you, you need”), but perhaps in listening to it now, the Cubs can learn from the mistakes of the past: Don’t trade away stud shortstops before they’ve been given a chance to really grow and develop. Baez, in short, might end up being a guy you get sick of hearing about after a while, because he’s so overplayed, but every now and then you’ll still catch yourself in the shower, singing his praises at full volume.
What PECOTA Says: .251/.346/.482, 30 HR, .294 TAv, 3.6 WARP
What The Beat Says: Look, I was less than a year old when all of this nonsense went down, so I can’t be blamed for the fact that America listened to so damn much Whitney Houston that the song was no. 1 in early December, when Baez was born, and still number one in March, when Schwarber entered the world. But, as we found with Rizzo and Heyward, we can learn new things from the same song, if only we think carefully about how to apply it to each man’s circumstance. For Schwarber, I think the part to listen to is the smooth sax solo around the two-minute mark (right when Kevin Costner is rushing through the crowd toward Whitney). Schwarber’s taken a lot of grief for his defense lately, mostly on the back of a clumsy performance in the NLCS against the Mets; this solo perhaps promises an upgrade to silky-smooth performance in the field in 2016.
What PECOTA Says: .240/.301/.400, 16 HR, .254 TAv, 1.3 WARP
What The Beat Says: “Stop, collaborate, and listen.” No, wait, that’s the wrong song. The actual song in question, “All For Love,” is really weird, but is also a collaboration. Written in Sting’s pre-mandolin phase, it made its debut as part of the Three Musketeers soundtrack, which I’m sorry to remind you ever existed. For some reason, America fell in love with the song, and it later went no. 1 in Sweden, as well. All of which is to say this: It’s really hard to guess what this might mean for Addison Russell’s 2016. He could use some development with the bat, sure—perhaps that’s previewed Sting, who at the time the song was released was just about to get creative with his wood, too—and his glovework already reminds me of the soft-rock of Stewart’s 1990s music. As for Bryan Adams? Who knows. Perhaps the soft-spoken Russell will apologize a lot next year, or get really romantic. All we really know now is that Russell, like this song, is hard to get a handle on. And possibly a little bit Swedish.
Look, I know the number-pushers who run this site will tell you that my sonic projections are total nonsense. I know they’ll say I’m crazy, and that you’d be nuts to read anything into what I’ve just told you. But they don’t know what they’re talking about. Did Galileo back down in the face of the Spanish Inquisition?* Did America back down when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Did Goose Gossage back down when everyone under the age of 40, and quite a few older than that, told him that he was an angry old man?
Never. So let the number crunchers tell you what they will: If you really want to know what’ll happen to these young Cubs in 2016, just listen back to the songs that brought them into this world. They were playing in your ears, too, not so long ago …