Cubs News: Through good and bad, 2020 was 2018 all over again

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The disappointing end to the 2020 Chicago Cubs’ season feels awfully familiar to their elimination in 2018.

The last three years have ended in heartbreak for the Chicago Cubs. Two wild card round losses and one blown division lead left fans with a lot to desire especially when it looked like a dynasty was forming. Instead, the Theo Epstein regime is possibly on its way out, and the team could head towards another rebuild.

However, what perhaps makes this year most interesting is how it felt like a shortened, yet oddly similar year to the team’s 2018 late-season implosion. At a glance, this makes sense between the quiet offseason, a strong start to the season followed by an utterly dismal offensive performance in the final stretch, and an eventual Wild Card elimination that inspires cries for change. However, the similarities go a little deeper still.

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When looking at the offensive drop-off of the 2018 and 2020 season, there’s a very similar pattern that sticks out: in the late months, this team stops slugging.  In September and October, the 2018 Cubs put up an SLG of only .363 while the 2020 team put up a somewhat worse .343. The walks stopped coming too, as the final month of the season in both years saw the team’s lowest walk rate for those years.

In both years, the Cubs also saw an opposing team eliminate them at Wrigley Field after scoring only a single run in the Wild Card round. In 2020, that embarrassment came over the course of two games instead of one, but the offensive ineptitude was just the same. Yet, there were some positive aspects in which these years mirrored each other.

The Cubs saw a breakout campaign of one of their young stars in both 2018 and 2020 in the forms of Javier Baez and Ian Happ. While Happ’s 2020 campaign pales in comparison to Baez’s 2018 MVP runner-up finish, he still managed a very strong 131 OPS+, which both tops his career-high and beats out Baez’s 129. These seasons also came after both players showed promising growth at the plate in the years prior.

Another positive comparison was the surprising resurgence of the bullpen. In 2018, despite the lack of any big-name relievers, the Cubs bullpen still pitched to a 3.35 ERA. The story for the 2020 bullpen was a bit different as they started among the worst in baseball, but powered by continued dominance from Jeremy Jeffress and a late return to form for Craig Kimbrel, they worked all the way back from an abhorrent 9.55 ERA in July to a solid 4.38 ERA overall by the end of the season.

Next. Positive takeaways from the 2020 season. dark

Despite their disappointments, these seasons also gave us two of the greatest Chicago Cubs moments in recent memory: the David Bote walk-off grand slam and the Alec Mills no-hitter. While this team is heading into an uncertain future, it’s important to remember that these seasons still had many good memories to remember, even if a broken offense clouds them, wasted pitching, and wild card meltdowns. The most important similarity is that these seasons are both parts of one of the greatest Cubs baseball eras we will ever see.