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 outfield.
Albert Almora (167/265/200 -0.1 fWAR)
Oy. 34 plate appearances, one extra base hit (a double). Usually with Albert, you get his hot start followed by pitchers catching up to him. This year, you didn’t even have that. He got Felix Ungered to South Bend at the end of August, as the Cubs upgraded to Billy Hamilton (see below). Anything other than the Cubs non-tendering him would be a shock.
Billy Hamilton (300/364/600 0.2 fWAR)
Billy Hamilton is a speed guy. Lots of speed. Blinding speed. Blinding in that it can blind you to the fact that he really can’t do much else. The Cubs picked him up, apparently for late inning defense and pinch running. So how did the Cubs use that speed? 14 appearances, 4 steal attempts (2SB, 2CS). His finest moment as a Cub was the last game of the regular season, where he homered and stole two bases. That one home run tied him for 4th among players on this post.
Ian Happ (258/361/505 1.9 fWAR)
There’s a tale of two Ian Happs. Before and after September 3, when he fouled a ball straight down, only to have it come up and hit him in the eye. When he left the field, his numbers were 311/421/648, and he was a serious MVP candidate. His first game back, he joined fellow outfielders Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber with two home runs each. Those were his last home runs until his solo shot in the postseason. His numbers for September were 213/286/360 with a K rate over 33%. Between his run at the end of 2019, and his performance prior to baseball-to-eye in 2020, you can’t help but wonder what a full season of Ian Happ will bring next year. But even with his Jeckyl & Hyde season, he was still the best guy in the Cubs outfield.
Jason Heyward (265/392/456 1.8f WAR)
File this under “Good things happen to good people.” Jason Heyward has never played to his large contract in Chicago, at least not statistically. But his presence as a clubhouse leader, an elite outfielder, and generally good guy – not to mention a handsome man – made you forgive his offensive deficiencies. It was no secret that he was constantly working, trying to improve his hitting. This year, more than any other, it bore fruit. After a fairly slow start, he just started a gradual climb that ended with his first OPS over 800 since 2012, and his wRC+ of 129 was his highest since his outstanding rookie year of 2010. Like Happ, you just hope he can carry it over into next year and give us a full season with this type of output. Add to this his Clemente Award nomination for contributing to Chicago organizations helping out people who were affected by COVID, and there’s only one available grade.
Jose Martinez (000/045/000 -0.5 fWAR)
The Cubs picked him up at the trade deadline, ostensibly to help hit lefthanded pitching. He racked up an unimposing wRC+ of 93 against southpaws during his brief stint in Tampa before coming to Chicago and managing to go 0-for-21. You’d expect that from a pitcher coming over from the American League, not a guy who was an outfielder only until the universal DH came along. In fact, I’d guess that going 0-for-21 is harder than hitting .300. You just don’t see that. I’m almost impressed by his badness. Like the aforementioned Almora, a strong nontender candidate.
Cameron Maybin (250/304/365 0.1 fWAR)
Maybin was another guy the Cubs picked up to help hit lefthanders. He was another guy who didn’t. Which is a shame, because I’ve always liked Maybin, and after listening to Happ talk about what a great human he is on his podcast, I was really pulling for him to catch fire for the stretch run. Sadly, that didn’t happen. He did manage 4 doubles and a triple in 52 ABs as a Cub, but he’s a guy you talk about in the past tense now.
Kyle Schwarber (188/308/393 0.4 fWAR)
The book on Kyle Schwarber for years is that he’s not the same hitter against lefties that he is against righthanded pitchers. His career stats (239/345/514 107HR vs righties, 197/301/348 14HR vs lefties) prove this out. But 2020 was different. He was equally putrid against all pitching. He hit .188 against lefties, .189 against righties. He did outslug RHP .428-302, but he just had an abysmal 2020, accentuated by a September where he hit only two home runs and posted a wRC+ of 41, which wiped out the more Schwarberian 132 of August. Since he’s always been a streaky hitter, maybe the short season cheated him out of the hot streak that would have brought his numbers back up to respectability. But if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts…
Steven Souza Jr. (148/258/333 0.1 fWAR)
Here’s one of those guys the Cubs like to kick the tires on. A guy who had some success in the past coming off a serious injury. Low risk, with the potential for high reward. He got into 11 games, going 4-for-27, but 75% of those four hits were of the extra-base variety – two doubles and a homer. The Cubs DFAed him to make room for Martinez, who managed to provide less offense than a guy with a gimpy knee that didn’t adjust to being a role player.
The Cubs anemic offense overall squandered good years by Happ and Heyward. Schwarber’s terrible September cost us the winter of saying, “Well, at least the outfield isn’t bad.” This will be a recurring theme, but the Cubs’ front office has to address the offense, and whether you start dismantling this group of players, or try fixing what you have, the outfield is going to be a major part of that.