The Cubs core struggled mightily in 2020. But that doesn’t mean what you think.
There were high expectations for the 2020 Chicago Cubs, especially the core group of players. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras were all looking to get the Cubs back into the postseason after missing out for the first time since 2014.
We were looking for big years out of these guys after the failure of the end of the 2019 season. The team faded badly late in the year and watched from home in October. The lefty expectations this spring were present even before the world changed with COVID-19.
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As we’re all ware, the group fell well short of those expectations. In only 34 games because of injury, Bryant was not good. He slashed .206/.293/.351 with four home runs and 11 RBI. The former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP was tasked to be the leadoff guy at the beginning of the season and, once again, a leadoff experiment failed. Ian Happ was given the opportunity after the Bryant injury and thrived in the role.
Rizzo wasn’t terrible but, it was not what we are used to seeing. In 58 games, Rizzo slashed .222/.342/.414 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI. This was a tough year for Rizzo because we are used to seeing him struggle in the first part of the season and then turn it on after a month or so. He wasn’t able to do that in the short season and it hurt.
Baez was probably the most surprising of the group. In 59 games, Baez slashed .203/.238/.360 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. Even those numbers seem better than what it looked like for most of the season. Baez looked lost at the plate for most of the year. Baez talked about how it hurt his play that he wasn’t allowed to watch the video during games because of the Astros cheating scandal.
Playing in all but one of Chicago’s games, Schwarber slashed .188/.308/.393 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI. There were even higher expectations for Schwarber in 2020 because of how strong he ended in 2019. Contreras was the best of the group slashing .243/.356/.407 with seven home runs and 26 RBI. He started the year off very hot and then fell off toward the end of the season.
Now, look. There’s no two ways about it. The core players didn’t deliver in 2020. That’s led to a lot of folks writing off the group, at large. Personally, I take it with a grain of salt. We can’t make that much out of their struggles given all the extenuating circumstances they played through.
There also have been a lot of rumors swirling around different core players being traded. I think it would be a bad time to try and trade anyone from the core because the value is so low. We would not get back what we expected for any of these guys if they were traded this offseason. Once again, the Cubs might have to roll the dice and run it back next season.