Hoyer, Cubs embrace “Underdog” Role in 2021
Baseball is back, America. Fans are back in the stands, and Opening Day is finally here. The feeling around Wrigleyville though seems to be a bit different than some most recent seasons. Rather than expecting the Cubs to finally “bounce back,” many are simply writing the team off now that they are five seasons removed from their World Series championship in 2016.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, told Maddie Lee of NBC Sports, “It kind of gives our guys a little bit of a chip on their shoulder.” Former 2015 NL Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta also stated, “We don’t care about that. Honestly. That’s it. I haven’t heard any of it, I haven’t seen it, and it’s irrelevant.” 2021 would not be the first time the Cubs have proved doubters wrong as many picked the Cubs to finish 4th/5th place in the division a year ago. The Cubs ended up winning the NL Central in 2020.
The division did not really improve outside of the St. Louis Cardinals addition of Nolan Arenado this winter, but many see the down years of this Cubs offense a year ago as a sign of things to come rather than a blip in such a small sample size of a 60-game season. Guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras; they’re all going to have bounce back seasons given their track records, not to mention three of the four are in contract years.
|Player||2019 Stats||2020 stats|
|Anthony Rizzo||.293 AVG
|Javier Baez||.281 AVG
|Kris Bryant||.282 AVG
|Willson Contreras||.272 AVG
This current Cubs core is still very talented, and a season in which 102 games were not played should not be the determining factor in once again picking against this team. By that notion, the Miami Marlins should be viewed as contenders in the NL East, and we all know how that is being perceived right now.
The Cubs rotation is also a chief reason many are picking against the team, but the numbers for those that are coming in versus those that are now gone? Very telling.
|Player (2020 Rotation)||2020 Rotation (2020 stats)||Player (2021 Rotation)||2021 Rotation (2020 stats)|
|Yu Darvish (now SD)||8-3
|Jake Arrieta (PHI)||4-4
|Jon Lester (now WSH)||3-3
|Zach Davies (SD)||7-4
|Jose Quintana (now LAA)||0-0
|Trevor Williams (PIT)||2-8
Obviously whenever you subtract a Cy Young candidate like Darvish, your next season’s rotation is going to seem worse, but Hoyer and the Cubs are taking a big chance on bringing guys like Arrieta back and Trevor Williams who did not have the greatest supporting cast in Pittsburgh. Zach Davies told Lee, “I know people will talk about how it’s not a great group of starters or whatnot, just because of velocity and strikeouts and whatever. But I’ll take five guys that are going to work their ass off in the rotation and compete every single game, compared to guys with just pure stuff.” The new Cubs rotation will not rely heavily on strikeouts as much as past Cubs starters have, so the seven other guys standing behind them are going to have more of a chance to impact the defensive side of the game in 2021 as the new starting five are pitch-to-contact pitchers.
The Chicago Cubs (0-0) will begin their season TODAY (4/1), at 2:20pm EST against the Pittsburgh Pirates (0-0). Kyle Hendricks (0-0 0.00 ERA) will get the nod taking on Chad Kuhl (0-0 0.00 ERA).