Chicago Cubs: Looking back at Kris Bryant’s historic NL MVP season

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

2016 was a magical year for Chicago Cubs fans and Kris Bryant had a lot to do with that. Let’s look back on the 2016 NL MVP season.

Heading into the 2016 season expectations were at an all-time high for the Chicago Cubs. Coming off a 2015 trip to the NLCS that saw them topple the arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, things were looking good on the North Side.

As for Kris Bryant, expectations were just beginning to grow. After being called up in April 2015 the standout third baseman dominated in his rookie year. In 151 games, Bryant batted .275 with 26 home runs, 99 RBI and a 135 OPS+.

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That performance was good enough for Bryant to win National League Rookie of the Year honors. His biggest weakness in his rookie season was his strikeout numbers. In 2015 he had 199 strikeouts which are still his single-season high even to this day. So heading into 2016 Bryant was looking to cut down on the strikeouts.

The pressure was definitely on the Cubs heading into the 2016 season. It’s not hard to see why. They had the reigning Manager and Rookie of the Year in the Senior Circuit, not to mention the 2015 NL Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta.

The front office went out that offseason and made some serious moves in free agency. Chicago signed Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and John Lackey – three key veterans to supplement the team’s young core. As manager Joe Maddon said before the season the Cubs will have to “embrace the target” because they were no longer going to catch anyone unawares – this team had the potential to dominate the league.

As we all know now, this season played out in historic fashion for both Bryant and the Cubs. The Las Vegas native hit .292 with 39 homers, 35 doubles, 102 RBIs and 121 runs scored in 155 games. He led the NL in runs scored, ranked third in home runs, fourth in OPS at.939 and sixth in runs batted in.

He was the only player in the Majors with at least 35 homers, 35 doubles, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored and 75 walks. Bryant also led the National League in WAR with an 8.3 which was the highest by any Cubs player since Sammy Sosa had a 9.2 WAR in 2001.

One of Bryant’s biggest goals in 2016 was to cut down on his strikeouts from the year before. In 2016 Bryant struck out in 30.6 percent of his plate appearances. He slashed that mark down to a much more palatable 22.0 percent during the team’s World Series run, while turning in a .385 OBP.

Bryant’s most memorable regular season performance that year was his huge night in Cincinnati where he went 5-for-5 with three home runs, two doubles. The other game that comes to mind was Game 5 of the World Series where he hit the home run that tied the game and basically turned the entire series around.

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Bryant is the first player to win the Golden Spikes Award presented to the top collegiate player, the Minor League Player of the Year, the Rookie of the Year and the MVP honors in four consecutive seasons. Somehow, Cubs fans keep taking him for granted, but in the last five years, we’ve witnessed history in the making.