This is Day Six of a Cubsmas Advent Calendar. You can read the explanation for the project and Day One here.
On Saturday I attended the Club 400 Christmas party where the featured guest for the event was none other than Mike Tauchman. In addition to celebrating his birthday a few days late (he turned 33 on December 3), fans got a chance to ask him some questions about his time with the Cubs.
My podcast cohost and friend Danny Rockett asked Mike if he was even aware that we were calling last season the Summer of Tauchman. Frankly, it seemed like he was vaguely aware. Like he knew there were shirts and the like (he got an order from Obvious Shirts) but really didn’t think much of it beyond that. It’s probably for the best, honestly. I imagine if you start thinking about how much of an impact you are having on a particular season it might start to get in your head and make it that much harder to perform.
The great part of being a fan is that we can think about the impact of an individual player or play as much as we want and who can forget this gem? [VIDEO]
That was an unbelievable catch to save the game and give the Cubs a much needed win on July 28 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Cubs General Manager Carter Hawkins was recently on MLB Network during Winter Meetings and mentioned that the Mike Tauchman catch was a key decision point for the team at the trade deadline. You can watch that interview in full here [VIDEO].
It was a magical catch, but it wasn’t the first or only time Tauchman made his presence known during his time with the Cubs. There was also this remarkable ninth inning comeback against Brewers closer Devin Williams on July 5th:
Look, the thing about great teams is that they have a handful of stars. Guys who have a bunch of All Star appearances under their belts, guys who will be in Cy Young contention, maybe, if you’re very lucky, guys who are headed to Cooperstown someday.
But great teams also have everyday role players who show up big when it matters most. Mike Tauchman was that guy in 2023, and honestly, he may very well be that guy in 2024, too. He gets on base at a well-above average clip which is valuable in the leadoff position. In 2023 he posted a .252/.363/.377 slashline with a wRC+ of 107, which means he’s seven percent better than league average at driving in runs. His career slashline across 1068 plate appearances is .239/.340/.377 with a wRC+ of 97. That really isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s certainly good enough combined with his above-average play in centerfield for Tauchman to be the Opening Day center fielder for Chicago until Pete Crow-Armstrong is well and truly ready.
Steamer projects Tauchman for a .242/.344/.375 slashline across 364 plate appearances in 2024. They also project him for a precisely league average wRC+ of 100. That is unlikely to make an All Star Team, but if he combines that offensive profile with game winning catches and timely hits, he’s exactly the type of guy who can raise the baseline talent to average and help the Cubs take a considerable step forward in 2024.
I’ve never wanted anything more than the summer of Mike Tauchman, Part II.