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Great individual seasons by Cubs who had bad springs, since 2006

Not hitting — or pitching well — in spring training didn’t mean much for these players.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This article topic was suggested in the comments to my “great springs” article from Wednesday morning.

Spring training numbers generally don’t mean too much, especially now when games are absolutely not played the way regular-season games are, regulars play maybe half the games, lineups are set so that regulars get the most at-bats, etc.

So these are players who had terrible springs, then went on to have good regular season numbers.

Let’s remember some guys!

2006: Henry Blanco

Blanco was in his second year as a Cubs backup and really didn’t hit at all in spring games: .133/.129/.167 (4-for-30). His OBP is lower than his BA because he had a sacrifice bunt AND a sacrifice fly. He did steal a base, which is one more steal than he had in his entire four-year Cubs playing career.

He had a good year at the plate during the regular season, batting .266/.304/.419 with six home runs in 74 games. Unfortunately, that didn’t help the team much, as the Cubs lost 96 games in 2006.

2007: Carlos Marmol

In a very small sample size, Marmol posted a 6.75 ERA and 2.25 WHIP in four spring games. The 2007 season was Marmol’s first really good year; he had a 1.43 ERA and 1.096 WHIP, with 96 strikeouts in 69⅓ innings.

2008: Geovany Soto

Soto played in 18 games at the end of the 2007 season and hit very well (1.100 OPS, three home runs), but that did not carry over to spring 2008, where he hit .194/.275/.290 (12-for-62) with 19 strikeouts.

Fortunately, that bad performance ended when the 2008 regular season began and Soto was named NL Rookie of the Year for his .285/.364/.504 season with 23 home runs.

2009: Randy Wells

Wells made nine relief appearances in spring 2009 and was terrible: 7.71 ERA, one blown save.

During the season Wells went 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.276 WHIP and finished sixth in NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

2010: No one qualified as “bad spring, good regular season”

2011: Matt Garza

Garza was acquired in a big trade before this season in Jim Hendry’s last-gasp attempt to make another postseason.

He was awful in spring training: 10.38 ERA, 2.26 WHIP in seven appearances (six starts) covering 21⅓ innings.

Then he put up decent numbers during the season: 10-10, 3.32 ERA, 1.258 WHIP, led the team with 2.7 bWAR.

It didn’t really help the team as they lost 87 games, and my enduring memory of Garza as a Cub came early in 2012 when, one out away from a complete-game shutout of the Brewers at Wrigley Field, he did this:

2012: Tony Campana

Campana was a one-tool player. He had speed, but couldn’t really do anything else well on a baseball field. In spring 2012 he hit .222/.239/.244 (10-for-45), but with five stolen bases.

He didn’t hit great during the 2012 season — .264/.308/.299 — but he had 30 stolen bases and only three CS. That was good for a 1.0 bWAR year.

Campana was fun to watch in a 101-loss season. Here’s a video from the previous year when he hit an inside-the-park home run — and scored standing up:

2013: Scott Feldman

Feldman was another one of those guys Theo Epstein signed, hoping he’d have a good year so he could be flipped.

Feldman’s spring training performance didn’t presage that. In six spring starts he posted an ERA of 11.25 and a 2.25 WHIP and he served up seven home runs in 20 innings.

But Feldman threw very well once the regular season began. He had a 3.46 ERA and 1.143 WHIP in 15 starts. That included this 12-strikeout complete game against the Padres.

On July 2, 2013 Feldman and Steve Clevenger were traded to the Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, one of the best deals in Cubs franchise history.

2014: Jeff Samardzija

The Shark put up a 5.14 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in six spring starts covering 21 innings.

During the regular season he posted a 2.83 ERA and 1.204 WHIP in 17 starts for the Cubs and made the NL All-Star team, though he could not play in the game because just after he got that honor, he was traded to the A’s with Jason Hammel for Billy McKinney, Addison Russell and Dan Straily. That was another good deal for Theo, as the Cubs re-signed Hammel and eventually included Straily in the Dexter Fowler trade the next offseason.

2015: Anthony Rizzo

By this time Rizzo was the acknowledged field leader of the Cubs, but he had an awful spring: .172/.250/.328 (10-for-58).

During the 2015 season Rizzo hit .278/.387/.512 with 31 home runs and finished fourth in NL MVP voting.

2016: Javier Baez

Javy hit .200/.250/.333 (6-for-30) in spring games in the Cubs’ World Series year, but during the season he had his first good MLB year, batting .273/.314/.423 with 14 home runs and 12 stolen bases, not including his daring steal of home during the NLCS against the Dodgers.

2017: Wade Davis

Davis posted a 14.40 ERA and 3.00 (!) WHIP in seven spring appearances and looked lost on the mound.

During the season he had a 2.30 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, struck out 12.1 per nine innings and posted 32 saves in 33 opportunities, in the process setting a Cubs franchise record for consecutive saves (32). He also posted a save in the Cubs’ clinching win in the NLDS over the Nationals.

2018: Brandon Morrow

Morrow looked terrible in spring games: 6.75 ERA in five spring outings.

During the season he was lights-out, with 22 saves in 24 chances and a 1.47 ERA. If only he could have pitched after the All-Star break.

2019: Jason Heyward

He was almost invisible in spring training: .132/.214/.184 (5-for-38).

Then he had a solid regular season, batting .251/.343/.429 with 21 home runs. Those numbers could have been better if Joe Maddon hadn’t inexplicably asked Heyward to lead off for a while. Heyward was terrible in the role, hitting .147/.252/.302 in 32 games in the leadoff spot.

2020: Yu Darvish

Darvish made just three starts in spring 2020, and put up bad numbers: 7.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP in nine innings.

Then he had a Cy Young-caliber season in the abbreviated regular season: 2.01 ERA, 0.961 WHIP in 12 starts.

2021: Craig Kimbrel

Of course, we don’t yet know what the 2021 regular season will have in store for Kimbrel, but it could hardly be worse than the 30.38 (!) ERA and 3.38 WHIP he’s posted in three spring appearances so far. Here’s hoping for better things from the Cubs closer.