In Part 2 of this series, covering numbers 11 through 19, two Hall of Famers dominated the discussion. We have two more Cubs Hall of Famers who wore numbers in the 20s to honor today.
Another plug, if you don’t mind, for the book co-written by me, Kasey Ignarski and Matt Silverman, “Cubs By The Numbers,” a fun look through the history of our favorite franchise’s jersey digits. An updated version of the book came out in 2016. Get yours here.
Now, on to the 20s!
20: The first player I thought of here was Jerome Walton, but Walton’s four Cubs seasons produced just 1.7 bWAR. Corey Patterson, maybe? Nope, just 3.7. Bob Dernier even beat out Patterson at 4.0, but the best Cub to wear No. 20 by bWAR was Adolfo Phillips, who posted 12.2 in a little more than three seasons, including a 6.0 bWAR season in 1967 that ranked tied for seventh in the N.L. Phillips is one of the biggest “what might have been”s in Cubs history.
21: Pretty obvious here: Sammy Sosa, 58.8. But who’s second, you might ask? Righthander Scott Sanderson, with 12.2 in his six Cubs seasons. George Altman, who had two stints as a Cub (1959-62, 1965-66) ranks third with 10.0.
22: Another “what-if” player tops the No. 22 list — Mark Prior, with 10.6 bWAR in five Cubs seasons. Bill Buckner ranks second with 8.6, but Jason Heyward, with 7.1, could pass both of them before his contract with the Cubs expires.
23: Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, of course, 68.1 bWAR in a stellar Cubs career. No other player wore No. 23 for more than five seasons. The only one who wore it that long other than Sandberg, lefthanded pitcher Vern Olsen (1939-42), comes in second among No. 23’s with 6.3 bWAR.
24: Dexter Fowler takes home the honors here, with 6.4 bWAR in his two Cubs seasons. Second place: the late Luis Valbuena, a better player than you might remember, 4.1 bWAR over three years in blue pinstripes.
25: Derrek Lee, with 22.7 bWAR in seven Cubs seasons, is the runaway winner here. Luis Gonzalez is the runner-up with 4.7 in two years. Maybe the Cubs should have kept him.
26: Another Hall of Famer, Billy Williams, is by far the leader at No. 26 with 61.5 bWAR wearing No. 26 (he also wore 4 and 41 in brief September callups). Hank Borowy, who helped the Cubs win the 1945 N.L. pennant, is a distant second at 5.6.
27: Addison Russell, 10.7. Second place: Sam Jones, 5.0.
28: Hey, maybe someday Kyle Hendricks will have his number retired. Sure, that’s a long shot and a long way away, but 20.4 bWAR in six seasons is pretty good. Jim Hickman is a distant second with 9.1.
29: Yet another number not worn by many Cubs of real significance. It was worn longest by Jeff Samardzija (2008-14), and he is the team bWAR leader for this number, 5.6. Righthanded pitcher Emil Kush wore it for four seasons (1946-49) and is a close second at 5.1.