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2021 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Epilogue

A final look at the Heroes and Goats numbers and rankings from the 2021 season

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I’m not going to get into a long recap of the season here. I said a lot of things over the final week of the season and this certainly wasn’t a season where “time to breathe” changed the perspective. It was a tumultuous season. My spreadsheet that I use to track the numbers is a mess. I basically had to track about 50 percent more players than I have in the past. Pretty crazy.

And you were all there for it. The Cubs turned over about a third of their roster in June. Coupled with injuries and then what appeared to be a final week COVID-19 outbreak and the Cubs cycled through a lot of warm bodies and names of players that even savvy Cubs trivia players might not remember 20 years from now.

I know many of you really hated 2021 and consider it one of the worst seasons. I can certainly see and understand that perspective. After the red hot May, and spending time in first place and being 11 games over .500, the carnage that followed was a real letdown. But then again, we came into the season with the prevailing voice in Cubs nation being that the Cubs didn’t do enough to improve the team and that the team went into the season undermanned.

Baseball happens fast. It’s conceivable that you went into the season frustrated, got excited and then had the bottom drop out in June and the slide never really stopped for any serious period of time. Depending on how you want to chop endpoints, this team at time bordered on historically awful. All of that together is certainly ample reason if you want to consider this among the worst seasons ever. For me, that will always and forever be the 1997 Cubs. They lost 14 games in a row to start the season. That was a season when I thought they didn’t adequately try to field a competitive season and then they got absolutely blown out of the water from the opening bell. That season was over in April. For me, that’s the worst outcome. Never at any point did that team engage with me.

But the 2021 Cubs? Certainly what was going on in May and early June was engaging, right? How was this admittedly average or worse team competing for the best record in the league for a stretch? Along the way, I got caught up a bit in the Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel stories. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I lived through Gary Gaetti and so many other seasons. While noting that Gary was a good bit older than any of these three, I’m very aware that a few good months in an otherwise lost season does not mean the Cubs uncovered three hidden gems. If even two of the three of them are useful as fourth outfielder/fifth infielder types next year, then that’s awesome. None of my joy in following those stories is in any way tied into future success.

So I kind of enjoyed the ride. Don’t get me wrong, from a writer’s standpoint, this was conceivably the worst possible team to write about. They were bad for a stretch, good for a stretch, horrible for a stretch, okay for a stretch, bad for a stretch and finished strong. I probably missed a few streaks in there, but this team was so unbelievably streaky that it made day-to-day writing a challenge. When they were going bad, it felt like trying to write the very same words every day. To all of the people who have done this through the years, my hat is off to you. Finding the words every day can be a challenge.

As many of you already know, I’ve moved to Florida. I have an office in the new house where I work from for my day job and also my side hustle writing about the Cubs. I’ve decorated it a bit and largely, it’s a Cubs shrine. With my unopened box of Rizzo Wrap, two Kyle Hendricks bobbleheads, two bottles of Cubs wine (one commemorating the 2016 World Series), my Cubs gnome, my mini Wrigley Field, a Cubs ornament and a Wintrust scoreboard that is a picture commemorating the Series as well. This is a long-winded way of saying that through it all, I’m still all in as a Cubs fan.

Wait ‘til Next Year is here again. Fine by me.

Let’s go to the numbers. Here are the final standings for the Rizzo Award, given to the Cubs player who accumulates the most Heroes and Goats points over the course of the season. The award is named, of course, for Anthony Rizzo. While he’s gone, he’ll never be forgotten in this space. He won this award (obviously before it was named for him) four times in its first six years of existence and finished in third in one of those other two years.

Kudos to Frank Schwindel for winning it this year despite debuting two-thirds of the way through the season. It’s strangely fitting that the top three for this award, Schwindel, Kris Bryant and Patrick Wisdom all played first base at some point this season. Of course, first base is generally one of the more productive offensive positions, so it’s not terribly surprising, but a bit of irony. The average has been two of the top three scorers being hitters along with one pitcher. This was the third time in eight seasons though that all three spots were hitters.

Without further pause, let’s get to the results:

Results are tabulated daily with 3 points for Superhero, 2 for Hero, 1 for Sidekick. Negative points are posted for Billy Goat (-3), Goat (-2) and Kid (-1). With one exception, we ignored pitchers when they batted and batters when they pitched.

  • Frank Schwindel 30
  • Kris Bryant 26
  • Patrick Wisdom 26
  • Craig Kimbrel 20
  • Rafael Ortega 19
  • Nico Hoerner 16
  • Codi Heuer 8.5
  • Ryan Tepera 6.5
  • Jake Marisnick 6
  • Alfonso Rivas 5
  • Adam Morgan 4.5
  • Keegan Thompson 4.5
  • Brad Wieck 4
  • Joc Pederson 4
  • Joe Biagini 3
  • Dillon Maples 3
  • Javier Báez 2.5
  • Willson Contreras 2.5
  • Adrian Sampson 2
  • Andrew Chafin 2
  • Nick Martini 2
  • Adbert Alzolay 1.5
  • Pedro Strop 1
  • Robinson Chirinos 1
  • Tommy Nance .5
  • Austin Romine 0
  • Kyle Hendricks 0
  • Dan Winkler 0
  • Tony Wolters 0
  • Ryan Meisinger 0
  • Ian Happ -1
  • Trayce Thompson -1
  • Scott Effross -1
  • Michael Hermosillo -1
  • Shelby Miller -1
  • Jose Lobaton -1
  • Greg Deichmann -1
  • Johneswhy Fargas -2
  • Jake Arrieta (hitter) -2
  • Trevor Williams -2
  • Justin Steele -2
  • Trent Giambrone -3
  • Alec Mills -3
  • Kyle Ryan -3
  • Robert Stock -3
  • Ildemaro Vargas -3
  • Brandon Workman -4
  • Kohl Stewart -4
  • Matt Duffy -4.5
  • Eric Sogard -4.5
  • Andrew Romine -5
  • Michael Rucker -6
  • Jake Jewell -6
  • Jason Adam -6
  • Jason Heyward -6.5
  • Rowan Wick -7
  • Sergio Alcántara -7.5
  • Manuel Rodriguez -7.5
  • Anthony Rizzo -8.5
  • PJ Higgins -9.5
  • Trevor Megill -10
  • Rex Brothers -11.5
  • David Bote -19
  • Jake Arrieta -19
  • Zach Davies -25

This is seriously a grouping of some of the most anonymous players in Cubs history. Players who played for the Cubs but didn’t appear in Heroes & Goats: Erick Castillo, Taylor Gushue, Tyler Payne, and Tyler Ladendorf.

I also track the top 10 WPA game scores and bottom 10 WPA game scores among Cubs players. Those numbers are as follows:

Top 10

  1. Matt Duffy .768 - May 5
  2. Ian Happ .726 - October 2
  3. Frank Schwindel .648 - September 5
  4. Ian Happ .634 - July 20
  5. Adrian Sampson .596 - August 25 (Game 2)
  6. Frank Schwindel .559 - August 14
  7. Rafael Ortega .548 - August 1
  8. Javier Baez .522 - May 4 (Game 2)
  9. Trayce Thompson .519 - October 2
  10. Matt Duffy .511 - August 25 (Game 2)

Bottom 10

  1. Willson Contreras -735 - May 5
  2. Rowan Wick -.631 - September 17
  3. Codi Heuer -.565 - August 14
  4. Craig Kimbrel -.551 - May 15
  5. Trevor Williams -.540 - May 2
  6. Codi Heuer -.523 - September 25
  7. Ian Happ -.511 - July 21
  8. Jake Arrieta -.501 - June 5
  9. Zach Davies -.496 - September 25
  10. Adbert Alzolay -.489 - August 13

That’s all I’ve got for you for now. Keep an eye out for some Historical Heroes and Goats this offseason. After that, I should be back for my fourth season in 2022.