2020 Season in Review: Chicago Cubs
|Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 8:21 AM- -|
The Cubs season ended on Friday at the hands of the Miami Marlins, as they came into Wrigley Field and swept away Chicago in a two-game series sweep.
As has become typical for the postseason, the Chicago Cubs bats went quiet. Despite brilliant outings from both Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish, the Cubs were only able to muster one run in 18 innings, that being an Ian Happ bomb in game one.
The Marlins beat the Cubs by the score of 5-1 on Wednesday and 2-0 on Friday, and they will continue their season against the Braves this week. As for the Cubs, it’s another disappointing October as they look inside and wonder what the heck happened, again.
For the Chicago Cubs, it was a very turbulent season. The team started the year with the best record in the league, at 13-3, the starting pitching was phenomenal, and the offense was firing on all cylinders. After that, the Cubs went through a period where the pitching battled health, and the offense fell asleep. By the end of it, a few quality starts, a no-hitter, and production from unexpected players landed the Cubs in the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons.
Players who are typically all-stars for Chicago had years that would stick out on the back of the baseball card, in a bad way. The core of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber all struggled at the plate. Schwarber ended the season way below the Mendoza line. Baez finished with 75 strikeouts in only 59 games. Rizzo, who batted .293 a year ago, had a batting average that was .71 points below that. Bryant, who battled numerous injuries throughout the season, finished the year with just four home runs, and two were hit in the season final two games.
In the postseason, those hitters combined to go 1-28 with three walks. And if you look at the numbers from previous postseasons, the Cubs offense followed the trend of underwhelming offenses from Octobers prior.
Over the last three seasons, there have been declarations of the offense breaking and a reckoning coming. The matter is that the core is aging, their trade value is as low as it ever has been and the same can be said about their production as they all near closer to free agency.
HOWEVER, despite all of that, the Cubs won their third NL Central Championship in five years and made the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. The offense and the end of the season were grim, but there were numerous bright spots that the Cubs can look back on fondly and build upon in the upcoming years.
First and foremost, rookie manager David Ross led the Cubs to the postseason, something Joe Maddon failed to do with nearly the same roster a year ago. Ross instilled a sense of hunger in this unit and attention to detail that resulted in fewer outs on the bases, fewer errors in the field, and a trip to the postseason. Ross should garner votes in the NL Manager of the Year race.
While most of the offense struggled, Ian Happ excelled in 2020. Happ spent a large part of this 2020 season in the MVP conversation, and he led the Cubs with 12 home runs, 11 doubles, 51 hits, 30 walks, a .505 slugging percentage, and a .866 OPS. Happ emerged as a legitimate bat for this Cubs team and answered who should be the everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter this year, and potentially for years to come.
In the offensive categories that Happ did not lead the Cubs in, Jason Heyward and David Bote did. Heyward had arguably his best season as a Cub, as he hit .265 with a .392 on-base percentage and always delivered a solid at-bat. And Bote, in just 125 at-bats produced non-stop. It was Bote, not Happ, Heyward, or any member of the Cubs’ core who led the team in RBIs with 29.
Another bright spot was Willson Contreras. Despite a slow start offensively, Contreras finished the year with a .243 average with seven homers and 26 RBIs. Contreras also scored 37 runs and had an OPS near .800. But what stood out was the defensive numbers. Contreras caught nine runners stealing with his cannon of an arm. In addition to that, Contreras was noticed by his teammates and advanced metrics to have massively improved pitch framing, which was documented mainly as his greatest flaw as a player.
On the pitching side of things, things were solid for the Cubs. For a bullpen that began the year as one of the worst in the league, finished as one of the best — with an established circle of trust with Jeremy Jeffress, Rowan Wick, Ryan Tepera, and yes, Craig Kimbrel and more. On top of that, Kyle Hendricks delivered yet another solid season, pitching to the tune of a tremendous 2.88 ERA. Hendricks was outshined by Yu Darvish, who cemented himself in the CY Young race all season long.
Darvish finished the year with a league-best 8-3 record, with a 2.01 ERA in 76 innings, while striking out 93. Not to mention, the Cubs had Alec Mills throw a no-hitter in September.
On top of the select excellent on-field production, the Cubs finished the 2020 season as the only team in major league baseball without a positive Covid-19 test from the moment the teams were brought together to the moment the season ended — citing incredible work ethic, togetherness, discipline and the pursuit of one common goal.
The team fell short of that goal in the end, and it is unknown what direction the team will go in from here, but it was a fairly successful 2020 campaign for the NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs.