Following a season of watching the Chicago Cubs go 61-101, I admit that trying to choose the team's Most Valuable Player is a difficult task. However, even a team with this poor of a record had a few players that kept the team from losing even more. I considered who played a full season or at least had an impact for a long stretch. I considered offense or defense as well as pitching. Here are my picks in reverse order for 2012 Cubs MVP.
If Anthony Rizzo had kept up his level of production for the entire season, I would rate him much higher. Rizzo played in only 87 games since his call-up in late June, but he gave the Cubs a huge boost. The Cubs went 15-10 in July, and Rizzo had a great deal to do with it. He hit .330, 7 HR, and 17 RBI in July. He was on base at .375. He picked it up again in September (.292, 5 HR, 17 RBI). Rizzo also played spectacular first base throughout his time with the big club.
Outfielder David DeJesus did not have spectacular numbers, but he filled in a much-needed void as leadoff hitter. His .350 on-base average led the team's regulars and also led to 76 runs, second on a team that finished 28th in the Majors in scoring. He was third on the team with 29 doubles. He also had a .993 fielding percentage in 143 games in the outfield.
Second baseman Darwin Barney is a legitimate Gold Glove candidate. His 144 consecutive errorless games at second base tied a Major League record. He drove in only 44 runs offensively, but his .996 fielding percentage and tremendous range very likely saved just as many. He showed a bit more power (career-high seven home runs). Barney made himself a mainstay and a fan favorite in Wrigley Field.
Left fielder Alfonso Soriano had his best Cub season in 2012. He hit 32 home runs, all after May 15, to tie for fifth in the National League. He also had 33 doubles. His career-high 108 RBI was third in the National League. He battled through leg aches to play in 151 games and greatly improved defensively. He fielded at .996 while making only one error and made some great running and sliding catches all season long.
Pitcher Jeff Samardzija had a much better season than his 9-13 record shows. He had a 3.81 ERA in his first full season as a starter, and that includes a June record of 0-4 and 10.41 ERA. For the other months, he was 9-9, 2.80. He struck out more than a batter per inning and had great control. He helped save the bullpen by averaging into the seventh inning and became the staff ace after trades and injuries depleted the rotation.
Shortstop Starlin Castro's average fell a bit in 2012, but his production improved. He set career highs in triples (12), home runs (14), stolen bases (30), and RBI (78). He played in every game at shortstop, starting 161 of them. He earned his huge contract for a reason. He still needs some work on defense, but he improved a bit on his fielding percentage (.964). If he can close the walk-strikeout gap and reduce the errors, then Castro could contend for a league MVP in the next few years.
The Cubs have many holes to fill for 2013, but these players gave it their best for the entire 2012 season - or in Rizzo's case, for the entire time on the active roster.
Chicago Cubs, Individual Player Pages (Linked Above), cubs.mlb.com.
Major League Baseball, Chicago Cubs Sortable Player Statistics, mlb.mlb.com.
Major League Baseball, N.L. Sortable Player Statistics, mlb.mlb.com.
Major League Baseball, N.L. Sortable Team Statistics, mlb.mlb.com.
Raymond grew up in Florida and began watching the Cubs on WGN in 1982. He became a fan in 1984 when Ryne Sandberg hit the two famous game-tying home runs off Cardinals closer and former Cub Bruce Sutter. Raymond then solidified his team loyalty when the Cubs won the division later that season and has been a fan ever since. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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