The 2021 Chicago Cubs season ended with a rain-shortened 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in a game with zero consequences. The Cardinals had already punched their postseason ticket while the remains of the Cubs were ready to pack their bags for hibernation until 2022.
Chicago finished just 71-91, their worst record since 2013 and first losing season since 2014. Just a few years removed from their World Series championship, Cubs fans are already turning the page and looking forward to a new era.
There was a cloud hanging over the team when spring training began back in February. Core players Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez were entering their last season of control and, by all reports, extension talks went absolutely nowhere. Theo Epstein was gone, and Jed Hoyer took over as president.
The tone for the season was set last winter, when the team made the unpopular move of trading Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres – a blatant cost-cutting measure. So when the team reported to camp this spring, it had ‘Last Dance’ vibes. Smaller moves were made to try to bolster the roster on the cheap, including bringing back 2015 NL Cy Young winner and fan-favorite Jake Arrieta…which did not work out, to say the least.
Despite a magical month of May where the Cubs climbed their way into first, the team crashed back to earth hard when an 11-game losing streak in late June and early July turned them from possible buyers, into sure-fire sellers. The pitching was not adequate, the offense had way too many holes and lived up to their “boom or bust” reputation and the players seemed to have felt the weight of the looming trade deadline.
In the final week of July, the “Golden Era” of Cubs baseball ended when Baez, Bryant and Rizzo were traded, along with Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Joc Pederson. Like the beginning of the Epstein era in 2012, it became all about the farm system. While Cubs brass does not want to call it a “rebuild” it sure feels like one. Saying goodbye to Rizzo, Baez and Bryant, even if for the best, was emotional for fans.
Chicago Cubs: Some of the numbers on the team’s disappointing season
The 2021 Cubs made some history this year…not in a good way. First of all, they broke the all-time team season strikeout record with 1,596 punchouts. This broke the 1,595 mark set by the Detroit Tigers in 2019. With or without core players, putting the bat on the ball consistently was a major issue. This was also the first team to suffer multiple losing streaks of at least double-digits in one season in the franchise’s long history.
Overall they scored 705 runs with 210 home runs and a 92 WRC+. To put it in perspective, they had a 106 wRC+ in 2016.
The pitching staff as a whole finished with a 4.88 ERA, 1,358 strikeouts (equating to an 8.7 K/9), walked 596 batters (top-five most walks by a staff in baseball), 235 home runs surrendered (also in top-five most given up) and 1,386 hits given up (top-10 most given up). Worth noting that they were among the slowest-average fastball velocity pitching staff (around 93 MPH) in baseball. No surprise knowing the types of arms they had pitching.
One fun record that is notable is that the Cubs saw 69 different guys playing a game for the big league team. That is an all-time MLB record, which was previously 67. It was also cool seeing Patrick Wisdom break the Cubs rookie home run record, previously held by Bryant. Also worth noting that Frank Schwindel in just 56 games had an fWAR of 2.1. That was fourth-best on the team behind Willson Contreras, Wisdom and Bryant.
Chicago Cubs: Saying goodbye and moving forward.
Only 132 days until the Cubs begin their 2022 season in Mesa, Arizona. Over the next few months, the expectation is for a busy winter which will hopefully see some big names come to town to help turn this around. There will also be prospects playing in different leagues over the winter which can aid their growth, something to really keep an eye on.
No meaningful October games to look forward to stinks, as it had become something we had grown used to. However, with wise investing, good development and a little bit of luck, hopefully Cubs’ seasons aren’t limited to 162 games for too long. The road might not be smooth, and could be very frustrating, but right now it feels like there is nowhere to go but up.
Spring will be here before we know it, and the slate will be wiped clean. Not only a fresh start for a new season but a new era as well. The past is the past and time to look forward and not regret what was. May the days of 2022 shine brighter than 2021.