Feb 12, 2020 5 min read

PECOTA puts the Cubs in playoffs, can the Sox make a big enough jump to join them?

Hello, frents!

This has already been quite a week. Another big spike in readership on Day 2 and I’m seeing a lot of email addresses I don’t recognize. Which is awesome. If you feel like saying hey and introducing yourself, drop me a line at midwayminute@gmail.com or DM me @midwayminute. I’m glad to have you here!

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Last night
(Note: No good news ahead)

Oilers 5, Blackhawks 3
The Hawks go 0-for-3 on the power play, give up two power-play goals to Edmonton and again come away from a crucial game with zero points. They’re 0-2-2 in their last four and their resuscitated playoff hopes are again flatlining.

Wizards 126, Bulls 114
Zach LaVine scores 41. Bulls have lost six straight heading into All-Star break.

Michigan State 70, Illinois 69
Bad news: Down 17 at half, the Illini couldn’t quite complete the comeback.
Worse news: As the Tribune’s Shannon Ryan writes, Illini star Ayo Dosunmo may have sustained a serious leg injury on the last play of the game.

Tonight
Blackhawks at Canucks (9:30 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)

Tuesday was PECOTA day.

For the uninitiated, that’s the day the computers at Baseball Prospectus spit out the records that all 30 teams will achieve by the end of the season. As we all know, BP traditionally nails each prediction and there’s little reason to play the season.

OK, I’m just kidding. Like any predictive model, PECOTA has its instances of being really wrong and also being really right. Around here, the most notorious examples on each side are completely flubbing the 2005 White Sox (80 predicted wins before a 99-win World Series) and being generally right about the 2019 Cubs’ demise (82 predicted wins compared to the 84 they finished with).

So what does PECOTA currently see for both Chicago clubs?

The Cubs are projected for 84.5 wins, finishing behind Cincinnati in the NL Central but earning a wild card date with the Nationals. While last year’s prediction produced plenty of scoffs from a team and fans coming off a 95-win season — a reaction that was even more pronounced once they got off to a 29-18 start — the response to this one was a bit more muted. There’s some satisfaction in BP believing the playoffs are still within reach, but the mid-80s isn’t anything to get overly excited about.

The White Sox, meanwhile, are pegged for 82.5 wins and how you reacted to this depends just how optimistic you are about 2020. Either you though the total was too low for a team that won the offseason or you were pleased the rebuild looks on track and the Sox will pass 80 wins for the first time since 2012. Whatever the case, the Sox will have a much tougher time earning a playoff berth in the deep AL than the Cubs in the puddle-shallow NL.

BP always makes the disclaimer that it doesn’t “pick” a certain amount of wins for each team. The figures, rather, are the average of the range of simulations they’ve run. The numbers are also continually tweaked, so the Cubs and Sox projections could still move up or down in future updates.

Right now, though, both teams look good enough to keep our interest, yet are still far from being considered dangerous. I would say I didn’t need a computer to tell me that, but I would miss PECOTA Day if it went away.

Interesting day to be Theo Epstein.  First Joe Maddon admits to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez that there were “philosophical differences” between the front office and dugout in 2019. Then Epstein holds a news conference and says he texted Kris Bryant to tell him there were “no hard feelings” over the service time dispute the third baseman filed. Which, you know, is kind of a weird thing for a victorious party to text.

• I mention Jason Kipnis in yesterday’s lead and then he signs a minor-league deal with the Cubs a few hours later.  Say, did you know he grew up in Northbrook near Steve Bartman?

KC Johnson with the oral history of MJ vs Dominique Wilkins in the 1988 dunk contest. (Bulls Talk)

The United Center is getting a big makeover for this weekend’s festivities. The fewer reminders the Bulls play there, the better. (Tribune)

•  Here’s a fun one (well, if your last name is Reinsdorf): Forbes came out with its NBA franchise values on Tuesday and the Bulls were ranked fourth-highest at $3.2 billion.  Sunday was the 35th anniversary of Jerry Reinsdorf’s group buying a 56.8 percent stake in the Bulls for … wait for it …. $9.2 million. That’s a 197x return so far for the guy who once said he’d regret paying Michael Jordan $30 million for one season. (Forbes)

Nick Friedell on our old friend Jimmy Butler and the success he’s having in Miami. (ESPN)

• Just a reminder that this is the absolute worst time for polar vortex-like temperatures to return to Chicago. (Block Club)

• The scene is usually already crazy enough, but it’d be pretty cool if any of the NBA All-Stars popped in to watch the Public League Final Four this weekend.

Marquee Network added two more people to its sizable roster: Mark Grace and Elise Menaker from the Big Ten Network. Please let a Grace and Lou Piniella booth pairing happen at some point …  (MLB.com)

• From Yasmani Grandal to Nomar Mazara, Patrick Nolan grades each move of the White Sox offseason. (Sox Machine)

• Tom Brady a Bear? Bill Barnwell did the math and came up with six wild moves that could make it a reality. (Bill did forget the seventh, though, which would be getting permission from Josh McCown and Caleb Hanie to wear the No. 12.) (ESPN)

Have a great Wednesday everyone! Keep spreading the word. See you back here tomorrow morning.

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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