The Cubs went 61-101, which was "good" for the second worst record in baseball. The team reached the 100-loss mark for the first time since 1966. While many of us knew that this team wasn't going to be as good as we would have liked, I don't think anyone would have guessed we'd break 100 losses at the start of the season. Some may chalk that up to the optimism that flows through fan bases all across the country every spring, but most would point to the injuries and trades that occurred as the reason for one of the worst seasons in recent history.
Runs Scored: 613 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.78 | Runs Allowed: 759 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.69
Runs Scored Relative to League Average: .90 | Runs Allowed Relative to League Average: 1.10
The Cubs were 10% worse than the average National League offense and 10% worse than the average National League pitching staff. While those numbers don't sound very poor, the Cubs were third-to-last in run scoring, and also third-to-last in run prevention. Inconsistency has been an issue for a while, and it reared its ugly head again this season. The two main facets of the game -- run scoring and run prevention -- were rarely synced up, and if they were, it would be for a handful of games against a weak opponent. However, that also might have more to do with the general lack of talent than with inconsistency.
The Most Exciting Plays of the Season
4/23 Bot 9, man at 2nd and 3rd base with 2 outs, 2-1 Cardinals: Joe Mather singles off Jason Motte scoring the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a .765 WPA. The Cubs had a 23.5% chance of winning the game prior to the at bat, and a 100.0% chance of winning the game after the at bat.
4/24 Bot 9, bases empty with 0 outs, 2-1 Cardinals: Bryan LaHair homers on a fly ball to left center field off Mark Rzepczynski to tie the game, resulting in a .441 WPA. In other words, we had a 19.0% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 63.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
5/30 Bot 9, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 6-6 Tie: Darwin Barney hits a walk-off home run off Dale Thayer, resulting in a .438 WPA. In other words, we had a 56.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 100.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/7 Top 8, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 2-1 Brewers: Bryan LaHair homers on a fly ball to left field off Francisco Rodriguez to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a .529 WPA. In other words, we had a 18.6% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 71.5% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/8 Top 8, man at 1st base with 0 outs, 6-5 Twins: Alfonso Soriano homers off Glen Perkins to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a .420 WPA. The Cubs had a 33.4% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 75.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
7/29 Bot 10, man at 1st base with 0 outs, 2-2 Tie: Anthony Rizzo hits a walk-off homer off Trevor Rosenthal, resulting in a .294 WPA. The Cubs had a 70.6% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 100.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/5 Top 9, bases empty with no outs, 6-5 Dodgers: Anthony Rizzo homers off Kenley Jansen to tie the game, resulting in a .355 WPA. The Cubs had a 14.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 50.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/5 Top 7, man at 1st and 2nd base with 2 outs, 4-3 Dodgers: Alfonso Soriano doubles off Javy Guerra to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .427 WPA. The Cubs had a 27.7% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 70.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/30 Bot 9, men at 1st and 3rd base with 1 out, 11-10 Brewers: Anthony Rizzo doubles off Francisco Rodriguez to tie the game, resulting in a .388 WPA. The Cubs had a 45.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 84.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
9/2 Bot 5, men at 1st and 3rd base with 2 outs, 3-2 Giants: Alfonso Soriano homers off Matt Cain to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .392 WPA. The Cubs had a 40.6% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 79.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
10/3 Bot 9, bases loaded with 2 outs, 4-4 Tie: Bryan LaHair hits a walk-off single off Hector Ambriz to win the game, resulting in a .343 WPA. The Cubs had a 65.7% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 100% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Now, on to some team awards.
Most Valuable Player
Alfonso Soriano: Soriano was, by far, the Cubs' most valuable player this year. He led the team in home runs, RBI, OPS, wRC+, and WAR.
In the three years prior to 2012, Soriano played 401 games and compiled 4.6 WAR. In 151 games this year, Soriano notched 4.0 WAR. When you compare the two periods on a seasonal basis, Soriano played to the tune of a 1.86 WAR/162 between 2009 and 2011, and a 4.29 WAR/162 in 2012. From a more traditional perspective, he surpassed 30 home runs for only the second time as a Cub, and 100 RBI for the first time, notching a career high in the latter category with 108.
Soriano was worth about two wins between the trade deadline and the end of the season. There are a couple of teams that could have used his production during the regular season, and some that could have used him on their playoff rosters. However, a trade for Soriano would have hampered many teams' long-term plans, so it's not all about what he could have given them this year. We'll see what Theo and Jed end up doing over the off-season, but we have a win-win situation on our hands as keeping Soriano for another couple of seasons may not be as much of an issue as we originally thought it would be.
Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija was given the chance to start this season and he seized the opportunity finishing the season as the National League's 16th-best starting pitcher according to WAR. No other Cubs pitcher came close to the 3.3 WAR that Samardzija put together over the course of the season.
Samardzija posted the seventh-highest strikeout rate in the majors at 24.9%, which is the equivalent of striking out one in every four batters. Here are a list of pitchers whose strikeout rates are within a few tenths of Samardzija's: Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, Justin Verlander, and Cole Hamels. That's pretty good company for the first-year starter.
If Samardzija can learn to limit his walks a little better, he could become a championship-caliber top-of-the-rotation starter as early as next year.
Rookie of the Year
Anthony Rizzo: While there were a couple prospects that we were looking forward to seeing in the majors this year, none played nearly as well as Rizzo. Rizzo posted an .801 OPS, 116 wRC+, (tied with Soriano for the team lead), and 1.8 WAR in essentially half a season. If he played the entire season at the same pace, Rizzo would have been the eighth-most valuable first baseman in the majors. He might get a few votes in the overall Rookie of the Year balloting.
Since the end of the 2008 season, Jim Hendry became obsessed with finding a left-handed power hitter to complement Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez in the lineup. It took Theo and Jed a couple of months to swing a deal for a young left-handed hitter who has the potential to be a mainstay in the heart of the Cubs lineup. But this isn't about Theo and Jed, this is about a 23-year old first baseman who has lived up to his advance notices and has given us all hope for the future.
While this wasn't the kind of season we were hoping for, there isn't much of a difference between a 85-loss team and a 100-loss team when you look at the big picture. Neither team would have made the playoffs, and the 85-loss team would have had a lower 2013 draft pick and consequently less money to spend on its first round pick.
More importantly, let's look at the positives from this season: Anthony Rizzo emerged as the left-handed power bat of the future, Jeff Samardzija pitched well enough to be considered one of the better starters in the National League, Starlin Castro showed improvements in the field, Welington Castillo showed that he can be a very good catcher, and Alfonso Soriano put together one of his finest seasons as a Cub. Finally, let's not forget that we're going into another offseason with Theo and Jed at the helm -- there's a lot to be excited about.