With the Cubs’ season over and school back in session, it’s time to mix the two and dole out final grades for the 2020 season. This three-part series will rate individual performances over the Cubs’ 60-game regular season, plus their two playoff games.For the final part of this series, we take a look at the Cubs hitters.“I think our offense is going to be our strong suit,” Cubs manager David Ross said in summer camp.At the time, that seemed like a safe bet. Instead, the Cubs offense fell short of expectations.The bottom half of the batting order carried the top during the Cubs’ historically hot start to the season. But with just a 60-game schedule, even that didn’t give the heart of the lineup enough time to heat up. By the end of the year, only Jason Heyward and Ian Happ were batting above .250.
Here are the final marks for qualified Cubs hitters/position players:
Through the beginning of September, Happ was an NL MVP candidate. He proved early on that he should be an everyday member of the Cubs lineup and then worked his way up to the top of the batting order. Happ scored the Cubs’ only run of the postseason with a solo homer in Game 1 of their Wild Card Series against the Marlins.
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Rizzos solid start to 2020 kept his offensive production from dropping from middling to bleak. But like much of the Cubs core, he didn’t live up to his own expectations at the plate. His leadership, however, was on full display as his teammates credited him with bringing some levity to a trying season.
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The pressures of a 60-game season affected players around. But Bryant’s season was even shorter as he battled injuries to his left elbow, wrist and finger, and his right oblique. Bryant never found his rhythm at the plate in an injury-plagued season, but he did play some of the best third base of his career.
In-game video, crowd energy and time to make adjustments are all things Báez relies on in a normal season. Whether it was the absence of those factors, or something else entirely, El Mago was wildly inconsistent in the batter’s box. But the magic he worked on the field and the base paths kept his grade from sliding to a D.
Batting cleanup for much of the season, Schwarber was yet another member of the core who never got hot. He was the only Cubs hitter with over 30 at-bats whose batting average sunk below .200. On the bright side, he did hit 11 home runs, tied with Rizzo for second on the team. Happ led with 12.
At the plate, Contreras started strong and ended strong, with a slump in the middle. The catcher supplemented his hitting with a strong defensive performance. Entering this season, framing the glaring soft spot in his skillset as a catcher. According to Statcast, Contreras jumped from 45
th in framing last season to 11 th this year.
Heyward finished the season leading qualified Cubs hitters in batting average and on-base percentage. His 3-run home run in a ninth-inning comeback at Milwaukee was one of the Cubs’ most memorable hits. In Game 2 of the NLWC, Heyward led off the ninth inning with a double, giving the Cubs one last chance to avoid a shutout – to no avail.
Bote’s slash line was nothing special, but he led the Cubs with 29 RBIs. With runners in scoring position, the utility player’s numbers jumped to .379/.486/.690. With two outs and runners in scoring position, he was even better (.471/.550/1.000). He also played an important role filling in for Bryant at third base as Bryant battled injury.
Caratini took on a higher work load in years past thanks to the universal designated hitter this year. His offensive performance wasn’t surprising – in a positive or negative way. But on defense, he gets high marks. Caratini caught Yu Darvish as the right-hander contended for a Cy Young, and Caratini caught Alec Mills’ no-hitter.
Returning to his hometown, after nine years in Cleveland, Kipnis didn’t get to play in front of friends and family as he had planned. And after a hot start, the veteran’s offensive production cooled in late August and September. But Kipnis transitioned smoothly into a platoon role and was an energetic presence in the dugout.
Hoerner too was part of the early success of the bottom third of the order. But with a couple hitless streaks, Hoerner’s playing time fluctuated. After arriving in the big-leagues to much fanfare last year, Hoerner proved he belongs playing at the highest level. He was also the Cubs’ best defensive second baseman this season.