Earlier this week I noted that 2021 might have been the weirdest season in Cubs franchise history. Not the worst — just the strangest.
In that spirit, I present to you today some numbers connected with this year’s Cubs that I found oddball, quirky or just interesting. I draw no serious conclusions from these; this is mostly just for fun.
The losses were a cluster
No, that’s not the word you think I’m thinking of. What I want to point out here is that this year’s Cubs were really bad against only a few teams:
Cubs vs. White Sox, Brewers, Giants & Royals: 6-29
Cubs vs. all other teams: 65-62
That’s an odd combination of teams that dominated the Cubs — three division champions and another that lost nearly as many as the Cubs did (88 losses for Kansas City).
Success out West
The 2021 Cubs went 17-15 overall against NL West clubs, including winning the season series from the 106-win Dodgers four games to three. That’s in spite of a 1-6 mark against the Giants, included in that 6-29 total above.
On the other hand...
The Cubs went 13-21 against NL East teams in 2021 and 6-14 against American League teams.
On the other other hand...
The Cubs were 31-26 against NL Central teams not named “Brewers.”
Javier Báez led the Cubs in stolen bases with 13, despite only playing four months with the team. Rafael Ortega was second with 12. It’s the fourth straight year Báez led the Cubs in steals, either alone or tied with someone.
And Javy almost led in another category
Báez drove in 65 runs as a Cub. Ian Happ’s game-winning home run October 2 in St. Louis gave him 66 RBI for the season, so he’s the team leader for 2021. That is the lowest total to lead the Cubs in RBI in a non-shortened season (in other words, a 154- or 162-game full season) since the Deadball Era. Larry Doyle, who had previously become famous for telling sportswriter Damon Runyon “It’s great to be young and a New York Giant,” when helping lead the Giants to three straight NL pennants from 1911-13, led the Cubs with 61 RBI in 1917.
The K zone
You already know that the Cubs broke the MLB record for strikeouts in a season. Cubs hitters struck out 1,596 times in 2021, one more than the previous mark set in 2019 by the 114-loss Tigers.
Báez was on pace for 233 strikeouts at the time he was traded, which would have broken not only the franchise record (199, set by Kris Bryant in 2015) but the MLB record (223, set by Mark Reynolds in 2009). Javy cut down on his K’s in New York (and also missed 11 games with a minor injury) and wound up with only 184, which was still enough to lead the National League.
The Cubs went 11-8 in their final 19 road games of 2021, finishing the season 32-49 away from Wrigley Field. Not only was that middle-of-the-pack in the NL (seven teams were better on the road, seven worse), but it was only one game worse than the 84-win 2019 Cubs did on the road (33-48). In their final 19 home games this season, though, the Cubs went 8-11. At one point from late July to late August, they lost a franchise record 13 straight home games to the Reds, Brewers, White Sox and Royals. Overall, their record at Wrigley was 39-42, their first losing season at home since 2013 (31-50).
The games they saved
Craig Kimbrel’s 23 saves prior to his trade to the White Sox led the Cubs this year. It is the sixth time since 2009 (excluding the 2020 pandemic-shortened season) that the Cubs had a save leader with 23 or fewer:
2009: Kevin Gregg, 23
2012: Carlos Marmol, 20
2016: Hector Rondon, 18
2018: Brandon Morrow, 22
2019: Kimbrel, 13
2021: Kimbrel, 23
Only one other 2021 Cubs pitcher had more than two saves: Rowan Wick, who had five.
The prodigal returns... and is just awful
Jake Arrieta posted a 6.88 ERA in 20 starts for the Cubs. That is the worst ERA in franchise history for any Cub who made 20 or more starts in a season.
Six Cubs pitchers have had an ERA over 6.00 in a season of 20 or more starts. Jake had by far the fewest innings of any of them:
Words of Wisdom
Patrick Wisdom set a Cubs rookie record by hitting 28 home runs. He also led the team in that category, the lowest Cubs team-leading total since Anthony Rizzo led the Cubs with 23 in 2013.
He also led the Cubs in strikeouts with 153. He had the fewest PA of any of the 18 Cubs who have struck out 150 or more times in a season — 375. Next fewest: 462 by Ian Happ, who struck out 167 times in 2018.
The pitchers who weren’t pitchers
The Cubs used five different position players to pitch in 2021 — Sergio Alcántara, Matt Duffy, Anthony Rizzo, Andrew Romine and Eric Sogard. That’s the most ever for the Cubs in a single season.
Combined, they threw 6⅔ innings, allowed nine hits, one walk and three home runs and posted an ERA of 5.40 and a 1.500 WHIP which, honestly, isn’t all that much worse than the actual Cubs pitchers.
They also struck out three including Anthony Rizzo’s K of Freddie Freeman April 28 [VIDEO].
More position player pitching fun: Andrew Romine got to throw an inning to his brother Austin [VIDEO].
Last position player pitching note: Check out the pitch speed from Sergio Alcántara [VIDEO].
If the infield gig doesn’t work out for Sergio, maybe they can try him in the bullpen!
For a lot more 2021 Cubs numbers, check out JohnW53’s season-ending FanPost with tons of fascinating facts (posted in the comments at that link). Thanks to John for all his hard work on these numbers, and when you go read his FanPost, please rec it so it stays on top for a while.