While the season ended sooner than we would have liked, it did indeed end. So now there’s nothing left but to hand out report cards for the players of each team. We’re continuing this series today with the Cubs infield.
Javier Baez (203/238/360 0.0 fWAR)
Trying to grade the performance of 2020 Cubs infielders is about as appealing an undertaking as going on a maskless hugging spree through the Florida panhandle. The fact that we have to start with Javier Baez makes it worse. His glove is what kept him from posting a negative WAR for the season. His 31.9% K rate was his worst since his 2014 rookie season, which earned him a trip back to Iowa. As hopeful as we all were when he homered in Detroit and Len Kasper said, “he’s baaaaack”, he was not. The one glaring stat was his Z-contact %, that is to say contact made when he swings at balls in the strike zone, was 74.6%, the lowest of his career, including 2014. Pitchers weren’t just getting him to swing and miss at pitches out of the zone, he was swinging and missing at pitches in the zone. He blames it on not being able to watch video in between at bats. If he’s able to watch video next season and he bounces back, I’ll buy it. Until then, he was just abysmal.
David Bote (200/303/408 0.4 fWAR)
David Bote is a guy each team needs, a guy who can come off the bench and not hurt you either with the glove or bat. He should not be a regular in the lineup, and he damn well should not lead your team in RBI. But he posted a 159 wRC+ with men on base, and that climbed to 207 with men in scoring position. This for a guy whose overall wRC+ was 90. So at least he rose to the occasion. He flashed some nice leather at 3B when Kris Bryant was out.
Kris Bryant (206/293/351 0.5 fWAR)
Injuries were the story with Bryant all year. He wasn’t right coming out of the gate, then he jacked up his wrist making a diving catch in Cleveland August 12, where he still managed to hit a towering home run after the catch. That ended his home runs until the last two games of the season, when he hit one in each. He followed that up with an o-fer in the postseason. Like a lot of the guys in the Cubs’ batting order, 2020 is a year that he’ll be quite happy to forget.
Nico Hoerner (222/312/259 0.3 fWAR)
Hoerner opened a lot of eyes when he got pressed into emergency service at the end of the 2019 season. Under normal circumstances, he would have gone to Iowa and the Cubs could have assessed where he was before calling him up. Instead, he spent the entire year with the big club. He came roaring out of the gate, with hits in his first five games before becoming overmatched (only two multi-hit games the rest of the way) and seeing less playing time. If there’s not a normal minor league season in 2021, the Cubs may have no choice but to send him to South Bend to refine his skills. The potential is there, you can see it. But that potential can’t be realized if he’s just flailing at pitches he can’t handle.
Jason Kipnis (237/341/404 0.6 fWAR)
There was no surer thing once the Indians declined the option on Jason Kipnis than his putting on a Cub uniform. As it turned out, he was…OK. His days as an all-star (2013 and 2015) are dots in his rearview mirror, but he posted a wRC+ of 101, which is OK. His defensive play wasn’t going to make anybody around here forget Ryne Sandberg, but he fit the lefthanded infield bat void that existed since Daniel Descalso got hurt in early 2019 quite snugly. He gave us a moment of levity when he acknowledged the nonexistent fans in Cleveland. He went hitless in the postseason, but there was a lot of that going around.
Hernan Perez (167/167/167) 0.0 fWAR)
Do you remember that he was a Cub? Me either. Do you remember anything he did as a Cub? Me either.
Anthony Rizzo (222/342/414 1.1 fWAR)
When Anthony Rizzo hit a home run in three of the first four games of the season, everyone thought, “OK, here we go.” But then he had three separate home run droughts of around two weeks. While he hit 11 on the season, he never really got into one of his grooves that he usually gets into. And as much of a disappointment a year in which Rizzo had a wRC+ of 103 is, he was still far and away better at the plate than any other Cubs infielder. And, like everyone else, his bat went silent against the Marlins.
Ildemaro Vargas (222/222/556 0.0 fWAR)
Look, if you’re only going to have two hits for the season, one of them might as well be a home run off Josh Hader.
Patrick Wisdom (000/000/000 0,0 fWAR)
There was no bigger disappointment for the Cubs than their overall lack of offense all year. And it was no more prevalent than among the infielders. Whether it was injuries, inexperience, whatever. It was bad. The fact that the Cubs have not yet fired hitting coach Anthony Iapoce is a mystery.