Ever since Kris Bryant cracked into the league in 2015, he’s been one of the game’s best. This season, though, he faced true adversity for the first time.
Kris Bryant stood at his locker following a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies in the WIld Card Game, holding back his tears. It was a fitting end to a disappointing season for Bryant. As he sifted through what went wrong for him personally, to allow two straight days of watching their opponents celebrate on Wrigley Field soil, he seemed at a complete loss for words.
This was understandable given the circumstances. Bryant isn’t used to failure. Despite his disappointment, he shouldered the blame (no pun intended) for his inability to perform down the stretch.
“It sucks, I’ve been fortunate to not be eliminated this early,” Bryant said to reporters. “I missed a couple of pitches today that I could have done plenty of damage with.”
Elite start to his career
Since being drafted by the Cubs in 2013, Bryant been winning awards. He went from the Minor League Player of The Year in 2014, Rookie of the Year in 2015, to NL MVP and World Series champion in 2016. He also finished seventh in MVP voting last season.
As I stated earlier, this year was different. Bryant battled through injuries including a hit by pitch to the face and a lingering shoulder injury that forced him to alter his swing for the last month of the season.
When Bryant was healthy, his numbers weren’t consistent with his previous three seasons. In 102 games, Bryant slashed a healthy .272/.374/.460 – that wasn’t the problem.
Similar to a few of his teammates, Bryant’s regression came in the power department. Granted, Bryant played 50 fewer games than he ever had, he still struggled mightily (by his standards) in slugging. Bryant only managed to hit 13 home runs in 2018, a mark well below his capabilities.
Bryant has also consistently been at the top of WAR leaderboards for the past three seasons. He has never finished below a 6.0 WAR in those years. In 2018, Bryant finished his season with 1.9 Wins Above Replacement.
What this means
Going back to college, Bryant has always posted elite numbers. 2018 may have been the first time in his life where he has failed to live up to expectations. Injuries and coaching staff changes didn’t help.
I think the one universal takeaway from Bryant’s season is that he is a much better baseball player than this. As Theo Epstein often says, “progress is not always linear.” Baseball has a funny way of humbling players, and Bryant is no exception.
Sometimes a player posts a season that just doesn’t align with the rest of their career, and I think that’s the case with KB. It’s going to be a long winter for Cubs fans, but likely much longer for their third baseman.