Chicago Cubs: What is Ben Zobrist’s role moving forward?
Looking at the numbers
Ben Zobrist’s career could best be described with one word: dependable. His numbers generally don’t stand out, and he’s not known as a flashy player. But at every position he plays and on both sides of the plate (he’s a switch hitter), he’s as reliable as they come. He rarely makes mistakes. For the most part, you know exactly what to expect from the 12-year veteran.
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The 2017 season was a bit of a different story, though. His defense was sound as usual, but he took a fairly sizable step back at the plate. His offensive regression could simply be seen as nothing more than a down year. But Zobrist will turn 37 before next season begins, so it’s only natural to wonder if his age is playing a role in this decline.
Struggles abound in 2017
Zobrist has posted a robust career slash line of .263/.355/.428 with 157 home runs and 693 RBI. After being named an All-Star for the third time in his career in 2016, Zobrist slashed .232/.318/.375 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI this past season.
A 123 wRC+ player in 2016, he was merely an 82 wRC+ player in 2017. Disregarding his first couple of seasons when he was just breaking into the league, 2017 was by far the worst season of his career. Over the course of his career, Zobrist has been worth an average of 3.6 WAR per year. He was worth a paltry 0.3 WAR in 2017.
Again, this could be nothing more than a down year. Or it could be he’s entering the twilight years of his career. The more likely explanation is that both things are true. Sure, some players do slip through the cracks and dominate into their late thirties. But they’re the exception, not the norm.