A Cubbie Postmortem

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Expectations were tempered for the 2013 Chicago Cubs. Of course, expectations are frequently lowered on the North Side as a defense mechanism and coping device. There was good reason for this lack of confidence, and many losses were predicted. However, once these losses begin to occur and you become exposed to the reality of the final tally, it is a bit sobering.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a master plan, and it involves a massive overhaul of the Cubs farm system, and entire organization for that matter. This plan is currently unfolding, and has already been successful in numerous ways. Unfortunately, these successes have not been shared by the big club in terms of won/loss record, and some fans are beginning to get restless. I really cannot blame them at all.

The Cubs finished 66-96, which is really not good. This is on top of a 61-101 record in 2012. Many things need to go wrong to lose this amount of games, and trust me, many things did go wrong.

Offensively, Chicago was anemic. Only two teams, the White Sox and Marlins, scored fewer than the 602 runs posted by the Cubs. They never could seem to get a hit with runners in scoring position, perpetually stranding runners all season.

Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the two presumed cornerstones of the franchise, both had down years and regressed significantly, although Rizzo was not nearly as disappointing as Castro. The Dale Sveum firing, while involving a number of issues, was in large part based on his handling of young players, specifically Castro and Rizzo.

There were a few offensive bright spots, one being Nate Schierholtz, who in a platoon role produced career highs in pretty much every offensive category. Nate popped 21 homers with 68 RBIs, and provided great value at $2.25 million for 2013.

There was strong production from the catcher position, as starter Welington Castillo and backup Dioner Navarro were excellent. Castillo seems to be the future behind the plate, featuring exceptional defense and improving offense. Meanwhile, Navarro was really good in a limited role, batting .300 with 13 homers in only 240 ABs.

The starting pitching was a positive, as the Cubs actually had a pretty decent rotation for the better part of the season. Travis Wood was a pleasant surprise, throwing 200 innings and finishing with a tidy 3.11 ERA. At only 26, Wood could be a vital part of the rotation for some time.

Matt Garza was the No. 1 until being traded to Texas before the deadline. Jeff Samardzija ostensibly took over that symbolic role, although Wood did outpitch him. Spellcheck was solid and durable, with 214 Ks in 213.2 innings pitched. The Cubs would like a bit more consistency out of Samardzija going forward, assuming he is not also traded at some point.

Edwin Jackson was the big Cub free agent acquisition in the offseason, signing a 4-year/$52 million deal. The merits of this deal are certainly debatable, but after one season, one would have to consider it an abject failure. Jackson lost 18 games, and finished with a 4.98 ERA and .281 BAA. Jackson will be part of the rotation next year based on the contract and by default, so I suspect he will bounce back to an extent and deliver some decent numbers.

The bullpen was a total train wreck at the beginning of the season. Carlos Marmol imploded for the last time, leaving a gaping hole at the backend of the bullpen. Kevin Gregg was picked up off the street, and was somehow able to stabilize the pen for most of the year. I shudder to think how much worse it could have been had Gregg not delivered.

James Russell was a reliable lefty option out of the bullpen, and was essentially run into the ground by Sveum. Considering the dearth of options at his disposal, I suppose he had little choice in the matter. Pedro Strop was acquired from Baltimore as part of the Scott Feldman trade, and performed well as a setup man for Gregg. He is a viable option to close games next season.

Well, that is enough wallowing I suppose. I tried to mix in some happy thoughts as well, for what its worth. There are Cub fans that have grown weary of the losing and the rebuilding, and I can certainly understand and relate to this sentiment. It has been a long time, and at some point it would be nice to have our infinite patience rewarded with a consistent winner.

I believe it was painful, but necessary, to implement this rebuild with a sustainable, long-term approach. Unfortunately, losing is a hopefully short-term byproduct of this process. Team Theo has committed to this approach, and it needs to be seen through to the end, with no shortcuts or compromises. Until then, we are left with that oh so familiar refrain.

Wait till next year.

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Posted on October 7, 2013, in 2013, Cubs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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