Chicago Cubs: What to expect from David Ross in year two

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

It was an unusual first season as a big league manager for David Ross. Amidst some ups and downs, the Chicago skipper managed to lead the team to a division title, but Ross will face his biggest tests in year two.

Sure, the Cubs didn’t win a World Series last season, but I think there is still a foundation to build on for 2021. The only problem with that is the ownership and front office has gotten rid of about 80 percent of the starting rotation and seems to be heading in a much less competitive direction.

Cubs skipper David Ross will face tougher challenges in year two

If Ross can keep the Cubs in the postseason race while battling what we suspect will be continuing trade rumors and speculation, it proves he will be a more simply a successful MLB manager. I think there were some good and bad takeaways we can garner from Ross’ performance in 2020. A 34-26 record was good enough to win a weak NL Central Division, but it certainly could have been better. The Cubs got off to a 13-3 start but played less than .500 baseball the rest of the way.

The biggest concern comes from the lack of offense. Granted, it’s on the players to perform at a high level, but the hope was that Ross would spark the team to change their approach and remedy the lack of execution we saw in Joe Maddon’s final years. For the most part, things got worse, and players like Kris Bryant put up the worst offensive statistics in their career.

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Cubs Offense Last Two Seasons:

  • 2019: (5.02 Runs per Game) .252/.331/.452
  • 2020: (4.42 Runs per Game) .220/.318/.387

Where the Cubs did see improvement was on the mound. I think Ross deserves a lot of credit for the success of the team’s bullpen. At the beginning of the season, they were statistically the worst in baseball. Ross stuck with his guys, and by the end of September, the Cubs pen was one of the best in the league.

Cubs Pitching Last Two Seasons:

  • 2019: 4.10 ERA 1.325 WHIP
  • 2020: 3.99 ERA 1.221 WHIP

There were some situational moments I think Ross will learn from in his second year as well. On Opening Day, Ross faced his first test when he chose to leave Kyle Hendricks in the game with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. The move paid off, and Hendricks tossed a shutout in a 3-0 win.

Coincidentally, in game one of the 2020 postseason, Ross opted to leave Hendricks in one batter too long, and the Cubs lost 5-1 to the Marlins en route to a two-and-out in the first round.

Granted, it’s hindsight now, but those seemingly small moments will be a key to the team’s success.

We see it all the time in sports. Rays manager Kevin Cash and his decision to pull Blake Snell is a perfect example of this. You can go into a baseball game with a plan, but there is no script for the things that are bound to happen. If Ross can perfect this, it could make things easier for the Cubs, even if their roster is less talented in 2021.

Maybe it’s the fan in me, but I’m still not counting the Cubs out, even if the Cardinals jumped in front as the division favorite after landing Nolan Arenado. There are enough seasoned players with talent left on this team to be competitive. Bringing in impact players to help take the burden off would be nice, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

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Regardless of what additions or subtractions are made throughout 2021, Ross will be challenged to keep it all together and keep the ship pointed in the right direction.