As many of you know, I (along with co-authors Kasey Ignarski and Matt Silverman) wrote a book called “Cubs By The Numbers” back in 2009. It’s a numerical list of everyone who’s worn a Cubs uniform since they began doing so in June 1932.
An updated version of the book came out in 2016. Yes, this is a plug for you to buy one if you don’t already have one — the link is here.
Anyway, this quick series will take a look at the best (ranked by bWAR) player to wear each Cubs uniform number. For some of the higher numbers that have been worn by just one player, those player will get a moment in the baseball sun. The bWAR figure I’ll use for this purpose is only that which the player accumulated while wearing that specific Cubs number (some players, especially in the early years, wore more than one).
Here goes with numbers 1 through 9!
1: The winner here is Woody English, the Cubs’ regular shortstop for most of the years between 1927 and 1936. English posted 26.1 bWAR as a Cub. Honorable mention to Jose Cardenal, 9.3.
2: Again, we go back to the glory years of the 1930s. Future Hall of Famer Billy Herman posted 23.3 bWAR while wearing this number from 1932-36. This number, mostly a coach or manager’s number for many years, didn’t have very many good players wear it. Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett did, but only from 1937-40 (9.9 bWAR). Ryan Theriot comes in third at 5.5.
3: Another number mostly worn by coaches and managers, the best bWAR figure for No. 3 goes to Kiki Cuyler, 7.3 from 1932-35. At 1.5, current Cubs manager David Ross is second.
4: Billy Herman holds down another spot in this list; he switched to No. 4 from 1937 until he was traded to the Dodgers in 1941. 17.4 bWAR wearing No. 4. Another Herman, Babe (no relation) is runner-up with 5.3.
5: Finally, a modern player, though No. 5 has not had great players wear it. Albert Almora Jr. is the “winner” at 2.9 bWAR. Riggs Stephenson is runner-up at 2.7.
6: Stan Hack wore seven different numbers as a Cub (and others as a coach or manager). But wearing No. 6 from 1937-47, he posted 43.0 bWAR. Another 1930s stalwart, outfielder Frank Demaree, is a distant second at 8.0. 1950s infielder Bill Serena comes in third with 5.7.
7: Now we’re getting into some players you know better. Jody Davis is the top Cubs No. 7 by bWAR: 17.2. Rick Monday is next-best at 11.2.
8: Andre Dawson, of course, and it isn’t close: The Hawk piled up 18.4 bWAR in his six years as a Cub. No one else has even half that wearing this number.
9: Javier Baez has 18.6 bWAR for his career. It’ll take him one more year to surpass Hank Sauer (19.5).