MLB Baseball Betting

MLB Preview: Cubs Could Repeat – But It Won’t Be Easy

Everywhere you look, the Chicago Cubs are there. The defending World Series champions are the most beloved team in baseball, and the Cubs are +450 to keep their crowns, tied with the Boston Red Sox for first on the MLB futures market. But winning the World Series is one thing, even if it took 108 years. Winning back-to-back is a whole other animal. The last time it happened was a millennium ago, when the New York Yankees roamed the earth and won three straight between 1998 and 2000.

At the very least, the Cubs probably won’t win 103 games again. Their win total for the 2017 regular season is a more reasonable 95.5, and even that will be a challenge. Teams like the Cubs are prone to regression after enjoying an unusually strong season. And Chicago’s offseason moves may leave them worse off in the short term.

 

The Balls Have Eyes

The regression part is mostly out of Chicago’s control. It takes a certain amount of luck to win 103 games, and by at least one measurement, the Cubs were the luckiest team in MLB Baseball last year: BABIP, or Batting Average on Balls In Play. Opposing hitters combined for a .255 BABIP against the Cubs, well ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays (.282 BABIP) for first in the majors.

Some of that can be chalked up to good defense. Advanced stats say the Cubs had the best defense in baseball last year, although these things can be hard to measure. But for the most part, BABIP is considered highly variable in the stats community. The 2015 Cubs, who went 97-65, gave up a .287 BABIP – and that was still one of the lowest averages in baseball. Anything below .300 is typically a sign of good fortune.

 

Twin Magic

Throw in the departures of CF Dexter Fowler (.840 OPS) and closer Aroldis Chapman (0.82 FIP), and you can see how it’ll take something special for the Cubs to meet public expectations in 2017. Maybe they’ll end up like the Kansas City Royals, who went 81-81 last year after winning the World Series. Or the San Francisco Giants, who followed up their 2014 championship by going 84-78 and missing the playoffs.

This is good news for Boston, not to mention Cleveland and the LA Dodgers, who are next on the World Series odds list at +900. But regression works in the other direction, too. The 2016 Minnesota Twins were last in the majors at 59-103, and that definitely required some bad luck – they gave up a .319 BABIP, second only to the Arizona Diamondbacks at .320. The betting lines for 2017 have Minnesota pegged at 74.5 regular-season victories; don’t be surprised if the Twins go over that total by a few games. Call them the Anti-Cubs.

 

*Odds as of March 31, 2017