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Cubs no longer the class of the NL according to early projections

The reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs may find it a bit harder to repeat last season’s incredible success. The early projections are in, and while Chicago is still expected to be a great team, the Los Angeles Dodgers are projected to win the most games in baseball.

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Those predictions come courtesy of Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections. The website has been putting them out for years, and they’ve become the gold standard among those who worship advanced stats. You may not agree with everything the projections say, but the people at BP have a strong reputation and track record.

The Dodgers might give the Cubs a run for their money in the NL. (Getty Images/Jamie Squire)
The Dodgers might give the Cubs a run for their money in the NL. (Getty Images/Jamie Squire)

That track record says the Dodgers are going to lead Major League Baseball with 98 wins in 2017. That’s not too outlandish if you think about it. Los Angeles won 91 games in 2016 despite a record number of injuries. All they need is moderate health to improve. If that happens, and if Yasiel Puig returns to form, it’s easy to envision a scenario where they win seven more games.

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Just because the Dodgers have a higher win total doesn’t mean the Cubs are suddenly awful. Baseball Prospectus projects Chicago to win 91 games. That’s good enough to make them the second-best team in the NL. The Cubs will be a strong playoff contender once again.

Here are a few other interesting PECOTA predictions that caught our eye:

  • The American League East is once again a mess. The Boston Red Sox are the class of the division, but the Tampa Bay Rays are projected for second with 84 wins. They are closely following the Toronto Blue Jays (81) and New York Yankees (81). The Baltimore Orioles bring up the rear at 73.

  • This is far from the first time the Rays have performed well according to PECOTA. The system always seems to like the club’s strong defense and promising, young pitchers. That seems to be the case again this year.

  • The Minnesota Twins are going to finish second in the American League Central. Minnesota is projected to win 80 games. While that would actually be a massive improvement for the club after last season, it says more about the state of that division. The Detroit Tigers (78) and the Chicago White Sox (76) are expected to be right on the Twins’ tail, but all three will be terrible.

The projections don’t believe in the Royals again. (Getty Images/Ed Zurga)
The projections don’t believe in the Royals again. (Getty Images/Ed Zurga)
  • How about the Kansas City Royals? PECOTA has quite the history with that team. It never seems to believe in them, projecting them much lower than expected the past few seasons. Last year, when the team was coming off a World Series title, PECOTA pegged them to win 76 games and finish last in the AL Central. The Royals won 81 games and failed to make the playoffs, so PECOTA was right to be cautious. This year, Kansas City is again projected to finish last, winning just 71 games. Ouch.

  • The Seattle Mariners are going to break the longest postseason drought in the game this year. Seattle is projected for 87 wins, which would make them a wild card team.

  • Twelve players in the American League are projected to hit at least 30 home runs in 2017. The National League has six players in the same category, including three Cubs. (Since this information is behind a paywall, we aren’t going to spoil those players.)

  • Aroldis Chapman is projected for 40 saves, but his replacement in Chicago is expected to lead the league in the stat.

What stands out to you? Which team is being overrated, and which club is going to blow their projection out of the water? Given the polarizing nature of projection systems, we know you’ll sound off in the comments.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik