The Rundown: Close the Books on 2023, Cubs’ Season Mixed Bag of Results, Ross Probably Staying, Bellinger Probably Isn’t

“Summer came and passed away. Hardly seemed to last a day, but it’s over and what can I do?” – ELO, It’s Over

It’s tough for me to say that 2023 was a successful year because the Cubs were eliminated from playoff contention in Game 161. Chicago’s North Side baseballers won 83 games, finishing nine behind the Brewers in the NL Central. Justin Steele also developed into the ace we’d all hoped he could be, and the Cubs have a bona fide closer in Adbert Alzolay. All positives, yes?

Chicago’s season should be divided into three segments because each iteration differs from the others. The Cubs were 24-30 through 54 games, relying on and hoping for comeback seasons by the likes of Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini. The team showed flashes of its potential but didn’t generate much excitement until Christopher Morel was promoted. The Cubs waited 35 games to promote Morel, then he hit home runs in nine of his first 12 starts.

Morel’s spark helped the Cubs go 31-23 over the next third of the season, erasing an ugly trend of losing too many one-run games. Chicago could drop a dozen runs on an opponent any given day, and then lose a 2-1 affair because they struggled to hit with runners in scoring position. Steele established himself as an ace after returning from an injury, and Marcus Stroman was dealing. Kyle Hendricks made his second start of the year in the team’s 54th game and was a pleasant surprise for the rest of the season.

Speaking of Stroman, his injury spelled the beginning of the end for Chicago. It wasn’t his initial hip issue, but a subsequent rib injury that seemed to take the sails out of the season. The Cubs were okay at first but finished the final third of the season with a 28-26 record in large part due to a gassed rotation and a bullpen running on fumes. Their position players looked overworked, too, particularly Dansby Swanson, and the Cubs limped to a 7-15 finish that knocked them out of playoff contention.

That’s a very high-level look at the season, but we covered the nuances and subtleties here at Cubs Insider all year long. In order to make good on their promising future, the Cubs will need some veteran reinforcements to complement the upcoming youth movement. Stroman reportedly intends to stick around, which cost the Cubs Hendricks. Cody Bellinger might find more money elsewhere, so the Cubs will need to find a couple of corner infielders.

Jed Hoyer also needs to rebuild his bullpen. It seems to me that his reclamation projects tend to struggle the following year, which doesn’t bode well for Michael Fulmer and Julian Merryweather. Mark Leiter Jr. is an outlier, but he also struggled in September. You can go back to Steve Cishek to see the repetition of that cycle.

Even though 2023 was exciting, it was nothing more than another “wait ’til next year” season in the end. At least Hoyer and David Ross have a foundation to build on this winter.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Chicago’s September swoon was a teamwide effort.
  • Tom Ricketts hinted that Hendricks might return and stated that Ross is “our guy.”
  • Hoyer is backing Ross, too, so don’t expect any changes this year.
  • Ricketts said 2023 is not a failure, but that a successful season is predicated on reaching the playoffs.
  • Jameson Taillon said he’s proud of his teammates and thankful for the fans.
  • Bellinger’s possible return will probably be the hottest topic of the winter. I’d say the odds are 80/20 he won’t be back.
  • David Kaplan said during his ReKap of Friday’s loss that he believes the Cubs are not interested in bringing Bellinger back. “I keep hearing and I heard from someone tonight, they’re probably not going to get Bellinger re-signed,” Kaplan said. “The person I talked to tonight said, ‘We’ve already got a center fielder: Pete Crow-Armstrong.’ He still hasn’t gotten his first career hit, but I like him. He’s a good prospect. I said, ‘Who’s your first baseman?’ ‘It’s a first baseman, it doesn’t matter.”
  • Some fruits of Chicago’s rebuild are starting to arrive in the forms of Crow-Armstrong and Alexander Canario, but Chicago’s prospect bounty doesn’t project to match up with the Reds’ or perhaps even the Pirates’ within the division, raising the specter of a team that missed its best shot.
  • Cade Horton was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year, and Moises Ballesteros is the recipient of the Minor League Player of the Year award.

Odds & Sods

In other words, beating the snot out of the Pirates and A’s did nothing to boost the Cubs’ playoff chances. The Marlins have always been evil by the way.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“Could you kindly tell me, friend, what time the show begins?” – Bob Dylan, Lily, Rosemary & the Jack of Hearts

The Cubs have a 0.5% chance of earning a top-five pick in the 2024 draft lottery. The 17th overall pick is the team’s likeliest outcome.

Chicago finished 21-24 in one-run games and 3-6 in extra innings. That’s the difference between extending the season or going home. The Cubs were 18-9 in August, their best month. They were 10-18 in May and didn’t start winning regularly until Hosmer and Mancini were cut. Mike Tauchman was the team’s unsung hero and Bellinger was its MVP. Seiya Suzuki looks primed for a big 2024 and Nico Hoerner continues to improve every year.

The team’s Pythagorean record was 90-72, the result of a lot of blowout wins and too many close defeats. Their record against NL playoff teams was 15-30, proof that the Cubs are still a few players away from being a serious threat.

The Cubs start their 2024 championship campaign on March 28. Pitchers and catchers report in 134 days.

  • Games Played: 162
  • Record: 83-79 (.512)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 6,220
  • Total Strikeouts: 1,391
  • Strikeout Rate: 22.36%
  • Team Batting Average: .254
  • Runs Scored: 819
  • Runs Allowed: 723
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 0.0%, 0.0% to win the World Series

How About That!

MLB announced its television schedule for the Wild Card round.

The Braves are a heavy favorite to win this year’s World Series.

Buck Showalter announced on Sunday that he will not return in 2024 after he was fired by the Mets.

The Giants are also looking for a manager after dismissing Gabe Kapler last week. Terry Francona is retiring, so the Guardians need a manager, and Craig Counsell of the Brewers is also leaning toward retirement.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who the Red Sox said “embodied goodness,” passed away at the age of 57.

Mariners starter George Kirby honored Wakefield by throwing a knuckleball on Sunday.

Extra Innings

I don’t believe Babe Ruth called his shot in 1932, but I do like to think he did.

Monday Morning Six-Pack

  1. The Bears blew a 28-7 lead and lost 31-28 to the Broncos on Sunday, and fans are very unhappy with Matt Eberflus for some questionable late-game decisions. Eberflus is now 3-18 since becoming head coach. Justin Fields did enjoy the best game of his career, statistically speaking.
  2. Taylor Swift was at MetLife Stadium last night to watch her beau Travis Kelce play for the Chiefs against the Jets, towing along an A-list entourage that included Sophie Turner, Blake Lively, and Ryan Reynolds. The NFL and its partners are trying to squeeze as much juice as possible out of football’s most famous fan.
  3. The NFL aired yesterday’s Falcons-Jaguars game using “Toy Story” animation, and though it’s pretty cool, the novelty wears off quickly.
  4. The Powerball jackpot has risen to more than $1 billion ahead of tonight’s drawing.
  5. Scientists are releasing an army of crabs to save Florida’s dying coral reef. Not all heroes wear capes.
  6. It’s October, so it’s time to create our personal Halloween movie playlists. There is no scarier movie than The Exorcist, at least in my opinion, though I can never sleep after watching The Omen. My desert island horror flick is The Shining, and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness always gives me the creeps. The last three weeks of the Cubs’ season certainly qualify for the horror genre.

They Said It

  • “There’s no prediction of the future in anything. I really just enjoyed my time with this group of guys, with this coaching staff. Playing for the Cubs organization and Wrigley Field was really special.” – Bellinger
  • “We’d love to have [Bellinger] back. We extended Ian [Happ] and we extended Nico [Hoerner] this year. We’ve got six more years of Dansby [Swanson]. We’ve got a good core that we’re definitely holding onto. It would be nice. It’s a Jed decision. It will be up to Jed, Cody, and the free-agent market.” – Ricketts
  • “Obviously, in the free-agent market, the dollars that you spend per year is one thing, but you’ve seen contracts go nine, 10, 11 years and you just have to be very careful when that’s the market standard because players typically decline over those years pretty substantially. Other teams pay the price for some of those contracts. I think Jed’s done a very good job of making sure our contracts are rational and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing this offseason.” – Ricketts

Monday Walk-Up Song

I’m excited to see what Hoyer does this winter, but first and foremost he needs to add some firepower to his bullpen. The Cubs had too many one-run losses this season.

Back to top button