The Chicago Cubs had a disappointing 2019 season overall. There were some positive signs. Here we look at five of them.
When a team falls short of expectations the way that the Chicago Cubs did in 2019, it’s hard to find the positives. Despite the disappointing 84-78 record, there were some things that we can be optimistic about as the team prepares for the 2020 season. Here are five things that went well in 2019.
The core still performed
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras all missed some time due to injuries this season. When they were on the field, they all were solid. Rizzo hit over 20 homers for the seventh straight year and had the second-highest OPS (.924) of his career. Bryant hit 31 homers, second-most of his career while raising his OPS 69 points from 2018 to .903. Baez hit 29 homers and 38 doubles with his second-highest OPS of .847, while Contreras set a career-high in homers (24) and OPS (.888). Hopefully, all will be healthy and continue to produce in 2020.
Kyle Schwarber made some progress
Kyle Schwarber didn’t have a great first half, but in the second half, he emerged as a solid middle of the order hitter, posting an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .280/.366/.631. Schwarber was durable this year, playing in 155 games, and despite his subpar first half, he ended up ranking 43rd in all of MLB in OPS. There’s a lot to build on for 2020, while Schwarber has silenced much of the “trade him to the AL so he can DH” talk.
Ian Happ showed signs of life
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Ian Happ spent much of the year in the minors, which was difficult for him, but it may have paid off. In 53 games, Happ put up a solid .898 OPS, while he improved his at-bat to strikeout ratio from 2.3 in 2018 to 3.6 in 2019.
Happ got red hot at the end of the year and earned NL Player of the Week honors the last week of the season. He also showed a lot of versatility on defense; perhaps he’ll become the next Ben Zobrist or could even compete for the second base job.
Yu Darvish turned things around
Perhaps the essential thing about Yu Darvish is that he stayed healthy, making 31 starts. He wasn’t particularly good in the first half, posting a 5.01 ERA. But give him credit: He was able to turn things around and start earning his big contract by posting a 2.76 ERA in 13 second half starts. The biggest reason for the turnaround may have been walks, as he allowed 49 in the first half but just seven in the second half, an incredible turnaround. Darvish could assume the role of staff ace next year if he continues to pitch like that.
New arms emerged in the bullpen
Putting together a bullpen for 2020 will be difficult, but the Cubs had a few pleasant surprises in 2019. Rowan Wick, with just ten big-league appearances prior to this season, allowed only nine earned runs in 33.1 innings pitched. Alec Mills impressed both as a starter and reliever and could be a candidate for the fifth starter spot next year. Kyle Ryan, who didn’t pitch in the majors in 2018, was reliable from the left side, as was Brad Wieck, who came over from San Diego for Carl Edwards, Jr.
Honorable mention: Nicholas Castellanos
The only reason I didn’t include Nicholas Castellanos in the main list was that he’s a free agent, and we aren’t sure whether he’ll be back next year. Still, this turned out to be one of the best midseason trades the Cubs ever made: In just 51 games, he put up a 1.002 OPS with 16 home runs and 21 doubles. The problem now is that he’s dramatically increased his value should the Cubs want to keep him.