2021 Final Notes
TO RECAP: Iowa finished the regular season in last place of the Triple-A East Midwest division, 22.5 games below the first-place Toledo Mud Hens. The I-Cubs finished with a record of 51 wins and 78 losses, tied with the 1992 team for the second-lowest number of wins in any season, one more win than the 2018 I-Cubs.
CHUNK OF THE OFFENSE: With injuries and trades at the major league level this season, a lot of players from the Iowa Cubs made an impact with the Chicago Cubs. Of the 14 players who played first with Iowa before playing major time with Chicago accounted for at least 27% of the Cubs' offense in five major categories. They combined to record 356 out of the team total 1,255 hits (28%), 61 of the 225 doubles (27%), seven of the 26 triples (27%), 66 of the 210 home runs (31%) and 184 of the 672 total runs batted in (27%).
Thirty-seven players suited up for both Iowa and Chicago this year, including fourteen players that went through Iowa to make their major league debuts with Chicago.
NO HITS FOR YOU: Despite not having great overall num- bers to end the season, Iowa's pitching staff had some re- ally special moments in 2021. On May 9, in just their fifth game of the season, four pitchers combined to throw the first nine-inning no-hitter since Chris Rusin did so on May 7, 2014, at New Orleans. It was the first nine-inning no- hitter at home since Reggie Patterson did so on August 21, 1984. Two months later, three Iowa pitchers combined to throw a seven-inning no-hitter on July 11, against St. Paul.
It marked the first seven-inning no-hitter for Iowa since Chris Knapp did so on June 13, 1976. Along with the two no-hitters, four pitchers on the I-Cubs' staff also threw a one-hitter on August 15, against Omaha.
A DEBUT TO REMEMBER: Chicago's top-rated prospect, Brennen Davis, spent the majority of the 2021 season with the Tennessee Smokies in Double-A. With the Smokies he hit .252 with 20 doubles and 13 home runs, driving in 36 batters in 76 games. The No. 14 ranked prospect in all of baseball got assigned to Iowa on September 14 and made his Triple-A debut that day. Davis went 2-for-5 with two home runs and three RBI against Omaha in his debut, hitting a home run in each of his first two Triple-A at-bats.
CHASING THE STORM: The I-80 rivalry between Iowa and Omaha was in full affect this season, with the two teams playing 40 times, good for 31% of their 129-game schedule. In those 40 matchups, Iowa went 16-24, bringing their all-time record since 1998 against Omaha to 309-289.
They are 168-132 at home all time, while going 141-157 on the road against the Storm Chasers. The two teams are slated to matchup 18 times in 2022.
GRAND ENTRANCE: The 2021 I-Cubs hit seven grand slams this season, the most since 2007, when they hit eight. Five of the seven came at Principal Park, and the first five were hit by June 17, the second-fastest Iowa team to hit five since 2000. They had five grand slams in 37 games, beaten only by the 2017 I-Cubs who took just 21 games to accomplish the feat. Iowa had a grand slam in back-to-back games on May 20 and 21 against Omaha. They hit three grand slams in May, two in June, one in July and one in August, while tagging Indianapolis for three, Omaha for two and both St. Paul and Columbus for one. The seven grand slams were hit by seven different players.
WRONG KIND OF STREAK: From May 22-June 13, Iowa lost 18 of 20 games, including streaks of nine and seven straight losses. They fell from 9-5 to 11-23 over the four-week span. From May 22 to June 10, Iowa lost all 11 games they played at home, setting the all-time season record for longest home losing streaks. The previous record was 10 games set back on June 23-July 13 of 2018. They finished the 2021 season losing 10 of their last 11 games, including their final eight overall, and their final seven home games from September 10-October 3. The I-Cubs tied the 1992 team with 51 wins, one more than the 2018 team accomplished for the lowest number of wins for an Iowa team since 1969.
WHAT A MONTH IT WAS: The Chicago Cubs named out- fielder Michael Hermosillo the organization's minor league player of the month and right-handed pitcher Ben Leeper the club's minor league pitcher of the month for the month of June. Hermosillo played in 22 games with Iowa, hitting .324 (24-for-74) with five doubles, four home runs, 15 runs batted in and 14 walks. He had an on-base percentage of .446 and a slugging percentage of .554 in the month.
Leeper pitched in one game for Double-A Tennessee, and then was assigned to Iowa on June 8 and made his Triple- A debut that day. In eight games with the I-Cubs in June, the righty spun 10.1 hitless innings, allowing one unearned run on five walks and a hit batter. He struck out 18 of the 37 batters he faced, tossing 63% of his pitches for strikes.
NUMBER 500: Manager Marty Pevey came into the season as Iowa's winningest manager of all-time, with 479 wins.
Pevey entered the year with a record of 479-513 with Iowa, while being 1,123-1,230 overall in 17 seasons as a minor league manager. On July 4 this year, he notched his 500th win as manager of the Iowa Cubs. A 5-2 victory over the Indianapolis Indians marked number 500, as he finished the year with 530 as manager of Iowa, and 1,174 career managerial victories.
POWER OUTAGE: As a team, Iowa registered 120 home runs this season, the third lowest number in all of Triple-A. Team leader, Trayce Thompson, ac- counted for 18% of the entire team's home runs, with 21. The I-Cubs were seventh lowest in doubles with 192, and had a slugging percentage of .382, fourth lowest in all of Triple-A.
A QUICK TURN: Patrick Wisdom was assigned to Iowa from the Cubs' Alternate Training Site on April 30, set to begin his fifth year at the Triple-A level.
Prior to this season, the infielder had played just 43 games at the Major League level, including two with Chicago in 2020. In his first four games with the I- Cubs, he went 0-for-14 with eight strikeouts. In his next two games from May 20-21, he hit three home runs, drove in nine runs and walked four times. On May 25, he got his contract selected by Chicago and remained with the Cubs for the rest of the season. In 106 games with the Cubs, Wisdom recorded 78 hits, including 13 doubles and 28 home runs while driving in 61 runs.
FLASH BACK TO 2018: On September 14, the I- Cubs went to Omaha to start their last six-game series of the regular season. With Nico Hoerner on major league rehab, and Brennen Davis making his Triple-A debut, Iowa had each of the top two picks of Chicago's 2018 draft. Hoerner was taken 24th over- all, while Davis was taken in the second round, 62nd overall. With both Hoerner and Davis on the roster, it made five total I-Cubs players on the roster from the 2018 draft on September 14. Pitchers Ethan Roberts (4th round) and Blake Whitney (24th round), along with infielder Levi Jordan (29th round) joined the top two selections on the active roster for Iowa.
MISTAKES WERE MADE: Iowa went five straight games without an error in the first two weeks of the season, from May 9-14. Little did they know, that would be the only time all year they would go five games without committing at least one error. Five games stayed the longest streak all season, as the I-Cubs reached four straight games, but made errors in 56% (72-of-129) of their games. On the year, they were 27-30 when not making any errors, 16-37 when committing one error, 5-6 with two errors, and 3-5 with three or more. For comparison, the 2019 I-Cubs covered 13 straight games without committing an er- ror, eight more games than the 2021 club.
SIT 'EM DOWN: Cory Abbott finished second in the Triple-A in strikeouts with 130, just seven behind Gwinnett's Kyle Wright, who finished with 137. De- spite finished second to Wright in overall strikeouts, Abbott threw 41.0 less innings and made five less starts than Wright at the Triple-A level. Abbott pitched in seven games and threw 17.1 innings for Chicago, getting recalled five separate times throughout the year. The righty fanned a career-high 13 batters on May 30 against St. Paul, and nine or more in three consecutive starts from August 28 through Septem- ber 9.
STRETCHED OUT: On May 21, left-handed pitcher Justin Steele was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain. To that point of the sea- son, he had pitched in 11 games with Chicago, all relief appearances. Steele was sent to Iowa on a rehab assignment on June 27 and made four relief appearances, before being activated and optioned to Iowa on July 8. Chicago wanted to make Steele back into a starter, stretching him out over five starts with the I-Cubs. In his five starts, the southpaw spun 20.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on 11 hits and nine walks. He struck out 27 batters over that span, hold- ing opponents to a .151 batting average and holding a 0.87 ERA. Just under three weeks after Steele was optioned to Iowa, Keegan Thompson was optioned to Iowa on July 27, also in an attempt to make him a starter. The righty made 27 appearances with Chi- cago before being optioned, including 26 relief ap- pearances. He was 3-2 with a save in 40.2 innings, holding a 2.21 ERA over that span. Thompson made four starts with the I-Cubs, throwing 14.2 scoreless innings. He allowed just five hits and five walks while striking out 16 batters and allowing opponents to hit just .104 against him. After each of their respective stints, Steele went on to make nine starts with Chica- go while Thompson made five starts with the Cubs.
RECORDS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN: On June 19, 2014, Kris Bryant became the first I-Cub to homer for their first five hits with Iowa. That record has stood until this year, when two players homered for their first two Iowa hits, and one did it for his first three. Six players hit a home run for their first Iowa hit, including Cameron Maybin, Patrick Wisdom, Ja- cob Olson, Michael Hermosillo, Frank Schwindel and Brennen Davis. Davis homered in each of his first two at-bats with the I-Cubs, becoming the second player this season and just the third since 2014 to homer for both of his first two Iowa hits. The other player to homer in each of his first two at-bats with Iowa this season was Wisdom, who homered for each of his first three at-bats. Davis' achievement of two home runs in his Triple-A debut on September 14 was even more rare than just joining Wisdom and Bryant, however. He became the second player in the 2021 season to homer in his first Triple-A at-bat (Olson), but only the fourth to do so since 2004. This year was the first in at least that long to see two play- ers homer in their first Triple-A at-bats in the same season, as each previous instance had been sepa- rated by at least six years. Davis was also the first I-Cub since at least 2000 to homer in both of his first two Triple-A at-bats. He became the fourth I-Cub this season to have a multi-homer game, but the first to do so in his Iowa debut.
GETTING TO FULL STRENGTH: Thirty-seven players suited up for both Iowa and Chicago, including major league rehabbers Adbert Alzolay, David Bote, Willson Contreras, Matt Duffy, Jason Heyward, Nico Hoerner, Johnathan Holder, Dillon Maples, Jake Marisnick, Trevor Megill, Shelby Miller, Alec Mills, Austin Romine, Justin Steele, Rowan Wick and Trevor Williams.
DAYS OF THE WEEK: Iowa was at or below a .500 record on every single day of the week this year, with their best day of the week being Friday. Despite hav- ing a losing record at Principal Park on Friday's (5- 6), the I-Cubs were 6-5 on the road on Friday, going 11-11 overall this year. Saturday, July 31, marked the only home Saturday game that the I-Cubs won on the season, beating Louisville 2-1 in eight innings.
Iowa went 1-8 at home at 3-7 on the road on Satur- day's, holding a 4-15 overall record in games played on Saturday. Overall, Iowa went 9-10 on Tuesday, 11-13 on Wednesday, 7-14 on Thursday and 9-15 on Sunday.
OUCH: Michael Hermosillo led the team in hit by pitches with 12, one shy of the fifth spot in the single season batting leaders all-time for Iowa. The outfielder was hit in 8% (12 of 147) of his 147 at-bats with Iowa this season. In 39% (57 of 147) of his at-bats, Hermosillo either recorded a hit (45) or was hit by a pitch (12). He was trailed by Nick Martini who was hit by a pitch 11 times and Trayce Thompson, who got plunked seven times.
LEAVING THE YARD: Iowa's pitching staff allowed the most home runs in the Triple-A East this year, with 203 allowed. 203 home runs surrendered were just nine shy of the Reno Aces for the most in all of Triple-A.
203 home runs allowed also set a franchise record, 12 more than our previous high set in 2019. Another franchise record the staff set this year was hit batters, with 85, surpassing the record of 70 set back in 2009.
OUT OF ROTATION: Iowa had a lack of consistency from their starting rotation this season, with some starters getting injured and others moving a lot between levels. Beginning on August 28, the I-Cubs started Cory Abbott, Matt Swarmer, Joe Biagini, Luis Lugo, and Ryan Kellogg in that order for three complete rotations, and then made it 80 percent of the way through a fourth before Kellogg was scratched.
This ended a 19-game stretch where Iowa had used just five different starters, coming one game shy of completing four consecutive trips through the same five-man rotation for the first time all season. They'd previously completed two trips through the same rotation just once all year, from August 6 to August 17, and never more than that. The rhythm seemed to work out for the I-Cubs, as the five starters went 5-7, but gave the team eight quality starts and combined for an ERA of 3.99
• Discuss this story on the International League message board...
International League Stories from November 9, 2021
- 2021 Final Notes - Iowa Cubs
- Melendez Voted Top Offensive Player in Minor League Baseball for 2021 - Omaha Storm Chasers
- Durham Bulls Named Best Team of 2021 by MiLB.com - Durham Bulls
- Gwinnett Stripers Announce Return of "Veterans Pack" for 2022 - Gwinnett Stripers
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.