Ben Zobrist didn’t just defy the odds in 2018, he punched Father Time in the face, putting up some of the best numbers of his career for the Chicago Cubs.
It’s hard to imagine where the Chicago Cubs may have ended up without the contributions of ageless veteran Ben Zobrist last season. The utilityman put together one of his best overall offensive seasons so far, eclipsing the .300 mark for the first time and playing a pivotal role for the North Siders.
Heading into his age-38 campaign, the Illinois native has one last chance to leave his mark on the Cubs franchise. How much more can he really do though? I mean, we’re talking about a guy who played out of his mind in the 2016 World Series, winning the Fall Classic MVP honors after delivering a clutch knock in the tenth inning of Game 7.
All told, Zobrist slashed .357/.419/.500 in the World Series, walking three times and striking out just four times in the seven-game series. The victory made Zo a back-to-back World Series champion after he won it all with the Kansas City Royals in 2015.
Following the team’s World Series win, we heard a lot about the World Series hangover. The Cubs limped out of the gate and Zobrist struggled, as well. When the dust settled on the team’s season, no one put up worse numbers than the veteran, who battled injuries and failed to find any type of rhythm in 2017.
On the whole, he went from 3.7 WAR to 0.5 WAR year-over-year and his line plummeted to .232/.318/.375 – as his OPS fell 140 points. It wasn’t really a point where we chalked up his contract as a failure (given his tremendous success in the team’s World Series run) – but it wasn’t looking good with two seasons left on his four-year, $56 million deal.
But last season, Zobrist flipped that story on its head, hitting .305 for Chicago – his best single-season mark to-date. He’s put up better OPS and OBP marks in his career, but there’s still no debating his impact on the 2018 roster.
As the club’s offense cratered in the second half, the clubhouse leader put up a team-leading .330 average – and trailed only National League MVP runner-up Javier Baez in slugging percentage and OPS after the All-Star Break.
This offseason, we haven’t heard much about Zobrist aside from how Chicago could potentially look co Bryce Harper. But don’t sleep on what he could mean to this club (on offense, with his versatility and in the clubhouse) next season. Because as we saw in 2018, he doesn’t care about age – it’s just a number.