Chicago Cubs Season Recapby Carter LaCorte October 20, 2021 0 comments
The Chicago Cubs entered the season with a good chance of making the playoffs, but an even better chance of a collapse. The wrong outcome came to fruition, and Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez were among those dealt at the trade deadline. The team lost 91 games and officially started a rebuild. This is not the team that won the World Series in 2016, especially with their entire core decimated.
There were, however, some bright spots during the season. Baez’ last strands of magic in a Cubs uniform. The absolute robbery the team committed by acquiring Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer for Craig Kimbrel. Lastly, the emergence of three hitters that came out of nowhere to lead the team.
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Manager: David Ross
Position: 4th in NL Central
Postseason: Missed Playoffs
The hope was that the Cubs could make it back to the playoffs, after taking the NL Central the season prior. It is safe to say that they did not come close to repeating that. The starting pitching may have taken a hit when Yu Darvish was traded, but it should not have been anywhere close to as bad as it ended up being.
The team’s offense had both good and bad moments. There were standouts, but also massive disappointments. Willson Contreras and Ian Happ are the team’s stars now, but they were roughly league-average hitters in 2021. Jason Heyward underperformed. Nico Hoerner looked good, but only in 44 games of action.
Most Valuable Player: Patrick Wisdom
A 29-year-old rookie, Wisdom slugged his way to be in contention for Rookie of the Year, where he should get some votes. His .305 OBP may be pretty terrible, but Wisdom made up for it with 28 home runs and a .518 slugging, both of which led the Cubs. Wisdom can hit the ball, with a 51.9 hard-hit percentage and a 16.2 percent barrel rate. He came out of nowhere to solidify himself as the starting third baseman next season.
Starting Pitcher of the Year: Adbert Alzolay
The 26-year-old Alzolay wins this less by his performance and more because of some bad pitching by everyone else. Kyle Hendricks was not good one bit. Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, and Alec Mills were not much better. Pitching in 29 games, 21 of which were starts, Alzolay struck out 128 batters with a 1.16 WHIP, and a 4.58 ERA in 125.2 innings. Where Alzolay excelled was in limiting free passes, with just a 6.6 BB% all season long. He utilized his slider well, with opposing batters hitting just .181, with a whiff rate over 37 percent versus the pitch. He showed glimpses of his potential, even though the pitcher of the year tag is not deserved.
Relief Pitcher of the Year: Craig Kimbrel
Sure, Kimbrel was traded midseason, and then proceeded to crash with the Chicago White Sox. But he was so good with the Cubs that he has to be recognized. In 36.2 innings. Kimbrel allowed just two earned runs, walked 13 batters, and struck out 64. His H/9 was an unbelievable 3.2, and his 1.10 FIP was unsustainable. Luckily for the Cubs, the bad part happened with their rivals. The first two of Kimbrel’s three seasons in Chicago were a massive disappointment. But the start of 2021 may have made up for that.
Best Hitter of the Year: Frank Schwindel
As Cubs fans looked for someone to root for at first base following Rizzo’s departure, Schwindel answered the signal. Sure, it may have been in just 56 games, but Schwindel hit 13 home runs with a .342/.389/.613 line, which comes out to a 1.002 OPS. He stole the hearts of Chicago fans. Schwindel is also a disciplined hitter. He does not walk an eye-grabbing amount, but his 36 strikeouts provided for an above-average strikeout-rate.
Best Fielder of the Year: Nico Hoerner
Another very small sample size, Hoerner was undoubtedly the team’s best defender. His eleven outs above average and eight runs prevented easily led the team, even while seeing less defensive opportunities. Hoerner had nine of those outs above average at second base, with three at shortstop. Finishing in the 96th percentile in OAA, Hoerner showed that he can be a top-five defensive player, if given regular playing time. We will see if he elevates to that in 2022.
Comeback Player of the Year: Rafael Ortega
There is a legitimate case to say that Ortega was the team’s best player in 2021, not Wisdom. He came into the 2021 season with 143 career games played for four different teams, with an OPS under .600. The Cubs gave him a chance, and Ortega made the most of that opportunity. In 103 games, he hit 11 home runs with 12 stolen bases, a .360 OBP, and an OPS of .823. The 5’11” outfielder may have been a below-average defender who was caught stealing too often. But Ortega’s offense has solidified him a chance to become a regular next season. A 30-year-old who was a sub-replacement player previously may not be trusted, but the facts are that Ortega was very good in 2021.
The rebuild is underway. Do not expect the Cubs to be active players in free agency, unless they really want to bring back one of Baez, Bryant, or Rizzo. Still, that is unlikely to happen. The next one to be traded could be either Contreras or Hendricks. The goal is to build up the farm system as much as possible. The Cubs can enter 2021 with an infield of Wisdom, Hoerner, Schwindel, and a healthy Madrigal. That may not seem great on paper, but it would be intriguing to the Cubs’ fanbase.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images