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Talking Cubs with Baseball Prospectus’ Harry Pavlidis

Apr. 17, 2017
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Let’s start with the good news: The Brewers have already clinched a winning road trip, with Eric Thames’ hot bat and some solid pitching performances powering them to a 5-1 record in Toronto and Cincinnati. The bad news, however, is that the level of competition takes a big step up this week as the Brewers head to Chicago to take on the defending World Series Champion Cubs.

With that said, the Brewers will open play tonight with a half-game lead over their rivals from the North Side,  and they’ll have the added advantage of facing the back half of the Cubs’ rotation: Both Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester pitched over the weekend and won’t see action in this series.

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To preview this week’s games we’ve enlisted the help of Chicagoan, Cubs fan and Baseball Prospectus Director of Technology Harry Pavlidis.

So what’s life like as a Cubs fan following the 2017 World Series? How does it compare to what you expected?

I think everything has slightly exceeded expectations. For one, the celebrations have been very well done. From the massive parade and rally downtown, to Opening Night's Celebration, and the ring ceremony (which I was lucky enough to witness in person). For a situation where 'act like you've been there before' simply can't apply, it's been well produced, good for the players and a treat for the fans. Between the parade and the two-night ceremony to open the season, a lot of Cubs fans got to experience part of the magic first hand.

Entering the Pirates series over the weekend the Cubs had the National League’s best team ERA (2.30) but were in the bottom half of the league in runs scored (4.11/game) and OPS (.705). Which of those trends is more likely to continue?

The pitching and defense should be top notch again--hopefully the depth is there--but clearly the offense is under-performing/facing tough circumstances early. This should be the same grind them down offense we've gotten used to, and then some with Schwarber at the top.

Brett Anderson is expected to make his third start on Tuesday and, if he does, it will match his entire regular season total from 2016. How much is it reasonable for the Cubs to expect from a pitcher that has only exceeded 84 innings one time since 2010?

Someone asked me a similar question earlier this season/spring. I think I guessed 70-75 (innings) as a reasonable over/under for him. If he gets 100 innings under his belt, that would be a huge benefit. If he gets to 150 he might be Comeback Player of the Year. But right now just keep him healthy as long as you can, history shows that might be the most optimistic way to look at his workload.

Obviously we’re still far too early in the season to make any concrete statements about teams, but is there anything about the Cubs’ first two weeks that have surprised you?

Surprise might not be the right word, but they look like they did in 2016. Not like I expected something else, but the same enjoyment and drive to win seems evident and pretty much unaltered. So, not surprised so much as impressed by their continued professionalism and approach while living under the spotlight.

The Cubs are coming off a season where they won 103 games for the first time since 1910 and a World Series win and they’re likely the prohibitive favorite to win the NL Central again in 2017. What would it take for this season to be seen as anything but a letdown following last year’s historic run?

For some, another pennant at least. But I'll refer to my last answer there, I'll only be disappointed/letdown if they don't carry themselves and approach the season the way we've come to expect.

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