Awards for a last-place team? Is this like the All-Star team where every team has to be represented no matter how crappy they are? No way Jose Cardenal. These Cubs showed enough this year to warrant some real end of season awards — both conventional and not so conventional.
MVP: Let’s start out with an easy one. Anthony Rizzo wins this award going away. Unlike the steroid era, only 11 major leaguers hit 30 or more home runs this year, and he was one of them with a career high 32. If the Cubs weren’t 30th in the league in on-base percentage, he would have knocked in more than 78, but he was seventh in all of baseball with a .913 OPS. He’ll get some league MVP votes this year.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 28, 2014
Cy Young: Another easy one. On a cellar dweller Jake Arrieta was 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA and .989 WHIP. His secondary numbers support that he had a campaign worthy of the ace moniker he was given. If the Cubs do go out and get another frontline starter — as we’ve been led to believe — the Cubs will have a formidable 1A and 1B at the front of the rotation.
Fireman: In picking up his 29th save of the season, Hector Rondon was still throwing 98 mph in the last game of the season. He is the stopper on a relief group that features a number of power arms. He struck out a batter per inning and at only 26 years old, the Cubs could have a reliable closer for years to come. That’s a key component of any playoff team.
Most Improved: We could go with Rizzo or Starlin Castro for their very impressive bounce-back years. I don’t think anyone is shocked by their resurgence, however. I’m going to go with Chris Coghlan here. The former Rookie of the Year went from one of a bunch of outfielders trying to prove they even belonged in the big leagues to playing his way into the conversation to be a starter on a potential playoff team. His .283/.352/.804 line provided a solid presence at the top of the order on a team that struggles to get on base.
Rookie of the Year: When Javier Baez homered in his first at-bat, he looked like he was well on his way to winning this Cubs award. Though he did flash incredible power, he struggled to make consistent contact. Then Jorge Soler burst onto the scene and went on to hit .292 with five homers and 20 RBIs in only 89 at-bats. Meanwhile, right-hander Kyle Hendricks didn’t provide the same fireworks as some of the more heralded rookies, but he went out and gave the Cubs quality start after quality start. He finished the year 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA. His FIP of 3.32 shows that he didn’t do it with smoke and mirrors. Hendricks earned this award for his excellence over a longer stretch than Soler.
Least Valuable Player: The big debate in the NL is whether Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher, should win the MVP. I don’t think it should happen often, but if ever there was a year he should get it, this is the one. Same issue with the Cubs. Edwin Jackson was far and away the worst player on the Cubs, earning the right to be called LVP. Going 6-15 with a 6.33 ERA are credentials that any LVP hopeful dreams about. To his credit, Jackson’s FIP was 4.45, so he did have some bad luck. But don’t they say we make our own luck? I’m going with that. Honorable mention goes to Junior Lake (110 Ks, 14 BBs).
Executive of the Year: Tom Ricketts. I can’t believe I’m going to give props to a Cubs owner. I’m conditioned to hate them, and I still have trust issues with this guy. But he has taken the heat of losing with class and has stayed the course of player development. He also decided to go ahead with Wrigley renovations despite the threat of lawsuits, and his family is footing much of the bill. I don’t know how many Cubs ownership groups would have watched attendance go down year after year but kept their eye on the big prize. Oh yeah, I do know how many. None. So good for you Ricketts.
Here’s some random awards that I just made up:
Most Improved Leader: Castro. He might have his mental gaffes, but he stepped into a leadership void on a very young team.
— MLB (@MLB) August 27, 2014
Best Smile: Soler. That’s an easy one.
Most Disappointing Season: Travis Wood. From All-Star to also-ran. He’s got a lot riding on next year.
Best Sign of Future that He’s Gone: Nate Schierholtz. He tried hard, but he was the poster boy of placeholders for the real Cubs of the future. When he left, the future started to be now.
Player baseballs like least: Mike Olt led this category for a while. When he connected the ball jumped off his bat and went far. His ball just didn’t meet the bat enough. Then Baez came along. He’s got the same problem as Olt, though. I’m going with Soler here because he more consistently punished the ball. The line-drive homer he hit in St. Louis was the hardest hit ball by a Cub all year in my opinion. Good news with this category is that the Cubs have tons of candidates, with Kris Bryant about to join them next year.
All in all, this was a positive Cubs season. Theo Epstein’s plan is starting to come together. The Cubs played .500 ball since the end of July. They gave some valuable prospects a taste of the major leagues. Core players like Rizzo and Castro played like core players again. And there are more prospects coming and money to be spent.
It’s good to be a Cubs fan right now. Give yourself a hand because the award for Best Fans goes to you.
You can reach us at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.