Tough early schedule could impact win total

MESA, Ariz. -- Maybe the online Sportsbook, Bovada, was looking at the Chicago Cubs schedule when it declared 69.5 wins an over/under total for the season. Or maybe the Cubs simply aren’t good no matter the schedule.

But as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney highlights in this Insider piece, the Cubs have the toughest early schedule in the entire National League. At least based on last year’s standings.

The Cubs play 31 of their first 40 games against teams that had a .500 or better record in 2013 and fewer than half of those are at home. Most of the games are against the NL Central, one of the strongest divisions in baseball last season. Three teams they'll face went to the postseason. And it only gets tougher from there.

The Cubs play the AL East, traditionally one of the powerhouse divisions, in interleague play. They get the New York Yankees for two games in April and two more in May with the bulk of the contests against that division coming in the final three months of the season. More than likely the Cubs will have traded some players and younger ones will be taking their lumps against the likes of the defending champion Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays. Even the Toronto Blue Jays are expected to be improved since last season.

While the Cubs' over/under is 69.5, predicting an actual total for any team is difficult. Injuries or trades can make a big difference. The Cubs don’t have the lowest win projection, according to Bovada. That belongs to the Houston Astros, whose bar has been set at just 62.5 victories.