103-58-1. I did not see that record coming. At the beginning of the year, I thought the Cubs would be doing well to get to 95 wins. This season was more than anyone could ask for. Yet, it all seems unfinished. Come Friday, the Cubs will host game one in the National League Division Series against the winner of the Wild Card Game. With home field advantage in tow, I like the Cubs chances.
For several Cubs, 2016 has been a magical year, statistically speaking. The pitching staff was unbelievable while three hitters had career years at the plate. Today, let’s examine some awards for the season for both the Cubs and National League.
Cubs Team Awards
When one begins to look at the stats, the differences between the statistics of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are not that different. Rizzo has more RBIs, Bryant, HRs. Rizzo has a higher OBP, Bryant has more runs. I think going back and forth between stats all day is not going to solve anything. If you bring in intangibles, Rizzo is the leader of the infield and in the clubhouse while Bryant has a much higher WAR at 7.6 to Rizzo’s 5.8. Add in Bryant’s 6 positions played and I would tend to lean Bryant, except for one thing: Dexter Fowler.
Even though Fowler only played in 124 games, he sparked the offense, anchored the defense, and the Cubs won at a high rate. When he was out, the offense struggled. His 4.2 WAR was fourth on the team, but his presence and team-leading .391 OBP set the pace for the lineup. Had this award been given out in April, Fowler would have been MVP. Still, with all that missed time this summer, he is still playing great.While Fowler’s role is very important, Bryant’s magical full season is hard to overlook.
When the NL Awards come out, I think Bryant will get the MVP. I think his versatility to play 3 main positions (LF, RF, and 3B) well, and have that not impact his bat, has been amazing.
Team Cy Young
Jon Lester had his best year as a Cub. He looked more relaxed in 2016 than in 2015. His career low 2.44 ERA was outstanding, but Lester made it over 200 IP while striking out 197 and walking only 54. I think he was the ace of the staff this year from beginning to end.
On the other hand, Kyle Hendricks had his best year as a pro. His league leading ERA and command were exciting to watch every game. In fact, he’s my favorite Cubs pitcher to watch every game as he pitches move so much. His second half was Arrieta-like. He posted a 1.36 ERA in 13 starts with a 0.896 WHIP. At home, he had a 1.32 ERA all season. I cannot wait to watch him go on Saturday.
When it comes to selecting a pitcher to pitch one game this year, I have to go with Lester. To me, Hendricks can dominate, but I have the feeling that when the moment is the biggest, that Lester WILL dominate. And come Friday this week, I think he will.
As for the NL Award, I think Max Scherzer of the Nationals takes home the Cy Young. I don’t think Hendricks or Lester has enough to take it away from him.
Rookie of the Year
Willson Contreras was the only Cubs rookie who had substantial playing time this year. His play behind the plate is improving, but he still needs to work on his framing skills. While his bat is fine, he still needs to be quieter when framing the pitch and not letting the moment get the best of him. His bat, though, is pretty sweet. In 75 games, he hit 11 HRs with 33 RBIs while hitting just about .280. The so-called “Catcher of the Future” will expand his role in 2017. I would not expect to see him catch much in the playoffs as Maddon is likely to go with the more experienced game callers in Montero and Ross.
When the NL announces the award, Corey Seager of the Dodgers will run away with the award. He should be unanimous.
Most Improved Cub
Javy Baez was a blast to watch every game. Whether it was on the field, on the basepaths, or at the plate, the young infielder was like watching lightning on the screen. He got into 141 games and had 419 at-bats. With 14 HRs and 59 RBIs in a reduced role, I like the direction he is headed as he only struck out 107 times this year.
Who’s Got Next?
There’s no doubt in my mind that Albert Almora is the next big Cubs prospect. The young outfielder is just biding his time. The problem is there is nowhere to play him every day. His whole career hinges on the contract of Dexter Fowler. Defensively, Almora is more than ready and should be a vital part of late inning defense in the playoffs. His bat still lags behind when it comes to his approach. I am unsure of what his role will be in 2017.
Manager of the Year
Rinse and repeat. Joe should take it home again.