TLS Staff Roundtable Discussion

Chicago Sports Roundtable: Baseball Hall of Fame Talk, How Many Games will the Cubs Win in 2017

Join the “TLS” writers in a roundtable discussion every Monday on The Loop Sports! This Week we talk about which Chicago baseball player has the best chance at becoming a future Hall of Famer, and ask how many games the Cubs will win in 2017.

The Loop Sports Staff Roundtable for the week of January 16, 2017:

With the baseball Hall of Fame Inductees being announced this week, name one player in Chicago today, who you think has the best shot at becoming a future member of the baseball Hall of Fame.

Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

Patrick Flowers: I have to go with Kris Bryant on this one. Bryant is two seasons into his major-league career and has already amassed statistics, that if are sustained for the next five to seven years, will have him deeply ingrained in the conversation before his career is even over.

In his two seasons, he has won the Rookie of the Year Award, the National League Most Valuable Player Award, made two All-Star Game appearances, and of course helped the Cubs win a World Series Championship. His resume already after two seasons is good enough to have him in the conversation of the best player in the game of baseball.

As far as I’m concerned, right now it is Mike Trout (another potential future Hall of Fame inductee) and Kris Bryant as one and two in Major League Baseball.

Matt Grabianski: This is a really tough question. With the combination of the Cubs starting lineup and the White Sox farm system I see quite a few potential HOF’ers. That being said, the front runner right now is easily Kris Bryant.

He’s been in the league not even two complete years and has won the ROY, MVP, and a World Series Championship. He’s already at 65 career homers and is only on the upswing. He’s primed for a fantastic career if nothing goes wrong. I’m also going to put out the names Willson Contreras and Addison Russell because I truly believe both of them can be HOF caliber players.

I love both of their swings, and their defense has been phenomenal, especially Russell. Right now neither of them have shown Hall of Fame quality offense, but they certainly have the potential to turn that around.

Matthew Smith: The short answer here is no one—right now, at least. On the North Side, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are shoe-ins if they continue producing to their capabilities for the next five to seven years.

Jon Lester can get there with four more years of excellence. Let’s not forget that he’s only been an All-Star four times and has only been in the top four in Cy Young voting thrice. Sure, those accolades don’t matter as much as they used to since the BBWAA is evolving. That said, Lester hasn’t been dominant for a prolonged stretch the way other top-flight lefties have been.

Look no further than Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw for examples. On the South Side, the answer is no one—ever. At least no one that is on the 25-man roster. Jose Quintana is quite good, of course, but he’ll run into the same problem as Lester. He is simply not dominant enough.

Benjamin Davis: Theo Epstein. There’s very few people in all of sports who have better credentials for the hall of fame than Theo. He ended nearly eternal championship droughts in both Boston and Chicago, building teams from the ground up. He may be the greatest front office executive of all time.

Anders Johanson: The Cubs are just starting to establish their baseball dominance, and the White Sox are two or three years away from joining the elite ranks so I would say that neither team has any Hall of Fame candidates at the moment.

The White Sox roster is going to get jumbled up as seasons pass, and the Cubs players are too young and too new to evaluate properly based on such small sample sizes in meaningful seasons.

Nick Petrusevski: I could answer this question the easy way and take some of the young, popular Cubs players, but I’m going to go a different route.

The White Sox are years away from being good. With that being said, they do have a bright spot and that’s Tim Anderson. He is already dominant in the field. Once he cuts down on his strike outs he’s going to be one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. I think he has a lot of upside that could land him in the hall of fame one day.

Tim Moran: Two months ago, I would’ve gone with Chris Sale. His year-to-year consistency makes me believe he is on a good path to the Hall of Fame when you take into account his sky-high talent level.

Now that he’s gone, however, I have to go with Kris Bryant. Two seasons in, and he’s already won the MVP while helping lead his team to a World Series. His numbers are great, as he’s slashing .284/.377/.522 for his career. That’s not even factoring in his excellent power output, as he’s averaging almost 33 home runs each season. With lots of time to develop, the trajectory he is on now would definitely put him in the Hall.

Owen SchoenfeldChris Sale is no longer in Chicago, which changes the calculus some, but not by much. Kris Bryant posted 15 fWAR across his first two big league seasons. That edges out guys like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Ernie Banks during the same time-frame.

Bryant has two all-star seasons in as many years and ROY and MVP hardware to boot. He dropped his K-rate from 30 percent to the low-20s and saw an uptick in slugging and ISO output. 39 HR and 35 2B with a .385 OBP will certainly play. All this with the bat, and he picked up starts at 3B, LF, RF, and 1B. Talk about a versatile superstar and Chicago’s best bet for Cooperstown.

Do the Cubs win more or less than 100 games in 2017?

Source: Jon Durr/Getty Images North America

Source: Jon Durr/Getty Images North America

Patrick Flowers: It’s tough to put a number on a teams win/loss record in January, but considering the Cubs roster is closer to completion than just about any other roster in baseball, It makes it slightly easier.

The Cubs starting pitchers outperformed their career averages in 2016, and their offense (which will be just fine overall) has lost their lead-off hitter in Dexter Fowler. I’m going to take the under on this one for now, and say that their win total is somewhere in the ballpark of 93-96 wins. Still not too shabby.

Matt Grabianski: They will be darn close, but if I had to guess right now, I’d say no, with one simple reason: starting pitching risks. As I pointed out in my bold prediction article, all of the Cubs’ starters performed well over their average during 2016, a trend that is highly unlikely to continue.

That combined with Mike Montgomery being thrust into a starting role and improved competition just makes it too hard for me to predict they win 100, even if the team is very similar to the one last year that won 104.

Matthew Smith: I’m not sure that question can be answered as the roster isn’t finalized. If the Cubs acquire another starter via trade (hello, Jose Quintana), they are in line to win more than 100.

If, however, they club goes into the season with Mike Montgomery as the No. 5 starter, I think they win somewhere in the mid-90s. That isn’t necessarily because Montgomery is a bad pitcher. To the contrary, he’s quite good, but they are a better team with him as a spot starter/swing guy in the bullpen.

Benjamin Davis: I think so. The Cubs lost a lot of production in Dexter Fowler but I believe the club has enough solid ballplayers and talent returning to make up for that loss. Joe Maddon will find a way to get them to 100 wins again.

Anders Johanson: I’d say that the Cubs have a legitimate chance at winning anywhere from 95 to 105 games in 2017. I think the one thing that will hurt them the most is losing Dexter Fowler. During the time Fowler was injured last season the Cubs had a hard time getting anything going, but once he rejoined the lineup it was a completely different team.
Without that kind of spark in the lead-off spot I think it will be hard for the Cubs to win games as easily as they did in 2016. Still, I think they’ll settle in and cruise through the schedule as the NL Central as a whole hasn’t improved all that much so far this offseason.
Nick Petrusevski: The Cubs have to be the favorite in the National League Central and I think they’ll win 98 games. I think the Cardinals will be able to compete with the Cubs for a large part of the season. Ultimately, the addition of Wade Davis and another starting pitcher will put the Cubs over the top.
Tim Moran: This one is really tough because there are both positive and negative differences between the 2016 Cubs, who had 103 wins, and the 2017 Cubs. First, they are getting back Kyle Schwarber, who should definitely up their win total if he and his powerful bat can play the whole year.
In addition, the young guys like Baez and Contreras should continue to develop and play at a higher level in their second or third year in the majors. On the flip side, they lost their solid center-fielder, Dexter Fowler, which will hurt their outfield production and depth, probably knocking off two or more wins. Additionally, their current fifth starter is projected to be Mike Montgomery, who has little starting pitching experience and is better suited to come out of the bullpen.
Now that Tyson Ross is off the market, it appears the Cubs will roll with Montgomery or a similar level replacement, which is a definite downgrade from Jason Hammel, who wasn’t amazing but probably better than Montgomery. As a result, the positives and negatives probably cancel out, so I say the Cubs finish with just over 100 wins like they did in 2016.
Owen Schoenfeld: This is the perfect question to unpack the two competing narratives for the Cubs in 2017. On the one hand, this is a club with significant lineup projection on top of what was already a robust offense. On the other hand, the season will hinge on whether or not an aging rotation drags down that remaining upside. The resulting record will ultimately be the balance of those two drivers.
The Cubs offense missed Dexter Fowler when he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, so his departure could have negative ramifications. The upshot is that Kyle Schwarber will be in tow for a full season. Add in the continued growth of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Wilson Contreras, and the emerging Javier Baez, and suddenly even the Sears Tower of offense in the NL has a higher ceiling.

The one thing no one seems to talk about around the family dinner table is that the Cubs have an abridged window within a larger one that appears to close after 2017. One of MLB’s top rotations last year is propped up by balsa wood rather than reinforced concrete. Jake Arrieta is coming off an uneven season, the 33 year-old Lester will be without his linchpin David Ross, John Lackey will be 38, and Kyle Hendricks will be fighting regression factors like a .250 BABIP and strand rate above 80 percent. Will this rotation be strong in 2017? Absolutely. But it doesn’t take an overly bearish perspective to see why it won’t be 2016’s steamroller again. This year’s team is probably a similar team, with 100 wins surely in play, but a different formula required to get there.

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