The Chicago Cubs lost last night to the Kansas City Royals in late-night Spring Training action, dropping their record to 8-11 (with about 57 ties) in Cactus League play. Were you inclined to read anything into a team’s Spring Training record – don’t you dare! – I would remind you that the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs went 11-19 in Spring Training. And the 2015 club, the first led by Joe Maddon, which reached the NLCS, was 15-17.
As a matter of fact, the last time the Cubs had a winning record in the spring, it was five years ago, in 2012, when they were 17-16. That year, the first of the rebuild, the Cubs went on to lose 101 regular season games, their most since 1966.
You’ll forgive me, then, if I still don’t give much of a plop about the Cubs’ Cactus League record. The games are fun if you want them to be fun, and so long as the players are getting themselves into a position to play out the regular season, all is well.
Even the individual player results should not cause you much discomfort. Last year, none of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, or Jason Hammel had a Spring ERA under 4.50.
The spring before, Mike Olt hit a whopping .271/.386/.542, and there was a build up of a bunch of ultimately unfounded expectation. The same year, Anthony Rizzo hit .172/.250/.328.
The examples go on, reminding us of the small samples, the unique conditions, the preparation work, and the wide range of players in these games.
So, rather than belabor a mixed spring of results so far for the Cubs, exemplified in last night’s loss, which featured mostly meh performances from the regulars and lots of hits and runs given up by Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson, I’ll instead just say … Addison Russell hit another homer last night!
Hey, isn’t that fun:
Russell’s hands are so quick, and he whips the bat through the zone with so much speed that even a liner rocket like that can leave the park.
That’s now 5 homers in just 30 spring at bats for Russell, who had 525 at bats last year. If he somehow kept up this blistering homer pace for 525 at bats this season, he’d be on pace for 87.5 homers, the most remarkable part of which would be the half homer. I wonder what that would look like.
… but it wouldn’t be very intellectually honest of me to point to these homers as evidence of much, while in the same breath telling you how little other spring results matter. Instead, I’ll remind you only that evidence of Russell’s coming power surge built up last year, and getting to see some extra dingers in the spring is just good fun.