Before every series I will post these charts to help you get ready for the games, You can consider this my scouting report. The methodology is described below.
The Astros finished their road trip in Chicago and come home to face Chicago except this time it's with the Cubs.
So, how do these two teams matchup?
Overall Preseason WAR Comparisons
Before the season this is how the two teams compared from a projected WAR standpoint.
The Cubs were actually projected to be an 76-86 team. Right now, they are on track to beat that or be slightly better than that.
Here is our modified table that shows the WAR by position so far, the projected WAR for the ROS, and then what the cumulative total WAR would be.
From an ACTUAL WAR delivered standpoint overall, the Cubs have a 12.1 to 8 advantage so far. Their record should be better. Swanson and Bellinger are among a host of new players doing well for the Cubs.
The rest of the season projections are consistent generally with the preseason numbers. The Astros have the advantage. Again, these are the season projection numbers and NOT my opinion.
By the preseason WAR method, Chicago would have been predicted to win 76 games in 2023 vs. the 89 for the Astros. Projected after their starts, the Cubs would track to win 79 games and the Astros have fallen to project only 82 wins.
Let's compare the competition these two teams have faced.
According to the website MLB Strength of Schedule Rankings (powerrankingsguru.com),
The Cubs have played the 14th rated schedule so far in the MLB. They have the 27rd rated remaining schedule.
The Astros have played the 9nd rated schedule so far. Their remaining schedule is the 19th rated schedule.
NOTE- the projection numbers have now been updated to the projections as of May 1st. This shifts several of the baseline Astros grades too. The defensive projections also were updated which affected the full season defensive WAR and the defensive grade bumps up and down.
Chart 1- Position Player Roster
Defensive Positions and rosters with bench and key minor league players. Who is injured? Then, the relative scores to arrive at who is better.
Several Cubs batters are performing well beyond expectations. This is reflected in the delivered WAR number so far.
The Astros are projected have an advantage at the plate but this has not been true so far.
Chart 2- The Projected Batting Orders
In this section I predict the general batting order I expect both teams to use this series. I MIGHT update this as the series progresses. You also see how the batting lineup compares with the 2023 projected grades.
It will be interesting to see if the Astros pitching can make the Cubs look more like their projections than what they have done so far this year.
Chart 3- Pitching Rosters
Starters and Relief pitcher rosters with key minor league players. Who is injured? Then, the relative scores to arrive at who is better.
This was startling to be given the WAR projections. I think until the June update of projections the Astros pitching comparisons will trend low because of what was projected for Bielak and France.
The Cubs have been pitching well beyond these projections too. Astros fans are likely not aware of how well the Cubs pitching has done this season.
Overall, for 2023, the report card matchup is even.
Chart 4- Starting Pitching Matchups,
In this section we look at the SP matchups by game.
The Astros need to win tonight. Can the Astros bats wake up against a pitching staff doing better than these projections?
Series Prediction- I need to address this. THIS Article is about the matchup and not a prediction. Predicting three games series results is nearly impossible. I do these predictions as a SUMMARY of what I think all of the matchup data is saying.
I believe the Astros will take two in this series but almost any result COULD happen. The Cubs should be better than their record according to many of these metrics.
As we have discussed in the previous Astros Report Card Articles here is the grading scale for the position players.
To account for the value of defense a player can get a letter grade bump up or down based on their projected defensive WAR (or actual defensive WAR for 2022) for their primary defensive position.
For the pitchers we will use these two scales- one for 2023 based on projected FIP and the other for the 2022 actual FIP- data.
The overall score will be based on the point values to the right. The differences are tallied in the columns to the right.
Overall Score = Starter Differences + Bench Differences / 2 + MiLB Players Differences /4