If you feel like it was just yesterday that the Cubs took the field at Busch Stadium to kick off the 2017 season as defending World Champions, you are not alone. The 2017 Chicago Cubs’ regular season absolutely flew by, and today, we find ourselves at game 162.
The NL Central Champion Cubs dropped the final game of the regular season to the Cincinnati Reds by score of 3-1 in today’s ballgame, which had the feel more of a glorified Spring Training game than a regular season game. The Greatest Leadoff Hitter in History, Anthony Rizzo, led off for the Cubs and was promptly removed after one at bat, Ben Zobrist went back and forth between multiple outfield positions, John Lackey threw an inning of relief, and the young trio of Rob Zastryzny, Felix Pena and Dillon Maples pitched the majority of the game.
With the regular season over, the Cubs prepare to take on the Washington Nationals, beginning on Friday, October 6, needing only 11 victories to repeat as World Series Champions.
What you need to know:
I dunno, like, nothing really.
If you must know about this game, know this: Anthony Rizzo led off for the Cubs, and after a flyout to left in his first at bat, was given the rest of the day off. The Cubs offense, mostly led by bench players after the first couple of innings, didn’t do anything of value, aside from a ninth inning Albert Almora solo homer.
The Reds got a run in the fourth inning on an Adam Duvall double off of John Lackey, scoring Joey Votto. A fifth inning RBI from pitcher Deck McGuire extended the Reds’ lead to 2-0 and a sixth inning RBI single from “Grown Man Named Scooter,” Scooter Gennett gave the Reds a 3-0 lead.
The only slightly significant development from today’s ballgame was John Lackey’s entrance from the bullpen. The relief appearance was only the second in Lackey’s regular season career and his first since 2004. With John Lackey having put together a solid second half (3.68 ERA/4.83 FIP/4.74 xFIP entering today) and the Cubs’ bullpen still having some potential playoff openings, Lackey appeared to be receiving some practice. It feels likely that Lackey will be on the Cubs’ playoff roster in Joe Maddon’s bullpen and that today’s rehearsal may be helpful in getting Big Bad John into the reliever mindset.
The Cubs’ loss today brings their season record to 92-70, making this the fourth time in Cubs’ history that the team has won 92 games.
While it’s truly impossible to compare eras, for fun, let’s have a look at the team leaders on those other 92-win Cub clubs.
|1905 Chicago Cubs Leaders (Batting)|
|1905 Chicago Cubs Leaders (Pitching)|
My goodness, take a look at those home run numbers for the 1905 Cubs’ batting leaders. The top four guys on the club in WAR only hit six — in total! Pretty astonishing to think about in comparison to the Cubs’ 2017 season that features two players with over 30 home runs and four more over 20. Mind you, it’s terrific to see that the dead ball era also extended to the ’05 pitching staff, with all four of these pitchers with WAR’s over 2.5 and ERA’s under 2.30 (with FIPs to back them up).
|1911 Chicago Cubs Leaders (Batting)|
|1911 Chicago Cubs Leaders (Pitching)|
It’s fascinating to see how just six years after the 1905 Cubs, with their comically low home run total, you get a guy like Frank Schulte clubbing 21 homers. While I’m not enough of a baseball historian to determine what fueled the offensive surge between these years, it is apparent from looking at both the offensive and pitching stats from the 1911 club that offense skyrocketed between 1905 and 1911. The Cubs pitchers in this season all finished the year with stat lines that feel more plausible in today’s game – take King Cole or Harry McIntire’s, in particular.
|1969 Chicago Cubs Leaders (Batting)|
|1969 Chicago Cubs Leaders (Pitching)|
And then there was the legendary 1969 Cubs team. While I inherently knew that Ron Santo was a terrific ballplayer, I don’t think I ever took a closer look at his numbers. Posting a 6-win season with a 134 wRC+ and a slashline of .289/.384/.485 is pretty outstanding and may evoke thoughts of another excellent Chicago Cubs third baseman who also just finished a season with 29 home runs and a WAR over 6.
But take a look at those inning totals from the pitching staff. Fergie Jenkins and Bill Hands both going over 300 innings in the regular season? That is ludicrous to think about in today’s game. If you needed further convincing on the dominance of Jenkins, Hands and Ken Holtzman, take a look at how they all finished with WARs over 5. Pretty dang impressive.
So the 2017, 92-win Cubs join this impressive company after another fantastic year. But, unlike those teams, whose championship hopes were dashed by them not winning the pennant in the regular season, we are nowhere near done with this year’s Chicago Cubs’ team.
Finally, a quick non-numbers-related note on the Cubs’ terrific broadcasting tandem of Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. With the Cubs moving on to the playoffs, today’s ballgame is the last one that that Len and J.D. will announce this season and their fun, intelligent commentary will certainly be missed. Cubs fans are very fortunate to have as great broadcasters as the two of them, and I, for one, cannot wait to hear them team back up in 2018. Thank you to Len and J.D. for another great season.
Top WPA play: Mike Montgomery reaching on an error by Reds’ Third Baseman Eugenio Suarez in the third inning, advancing Javier Baez to third. (.072)
Bottom WPA play: Tucker Barnhart’s double in the fifth inning, moving Phillip Ervin to third and setting up the Reds to add to their 1-0 lead. (-.106)
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports