Even with a winning record for the month, July has been somewhat of a disappointment. The Cubs slipped to a game behind the Giants for the second wild card spot due to an 8-7 record after the All-Star break in 15 games against some poor teams. With just two months to go, the club appears to be fading a little bit due to some major growing pains from their young players. Let’s look back at July.
- Team Record: 15-12
- Team Average: .222
- Team ERA: 3.39
- Top Hitter: Dexter Fowler
- Top Pitcher: Jon Lester
- Team Record: 8-16
- Team Average: .262
- Team ERA: 4.90
- Top Hitter: Anthony Rizzo
- Top Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
The Cubs winning record for July can be mostly attributed to another strong month from the pitching staff. Jon Lester had his best month as a Cub posting a 1.66 ERA and even struck out 14 batters in one start. Arrieta was close behind winning four of his six starts with a 1.90 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. Kyle Hendricks also contributed with a 2.90 ERA. Hector Rondon regained his closer role as he gave up just one earned run in 14.1 IP. Justin Grimm rebounded from a rough June to post a 2.16 ERA and Travis Wood struck out 21 batters in 10 games.
For the most part, the pitching kept the Cubs in a lot of games, but it also put them behind the eight ball as well. Dallas Beeler and Clayton Richard combined for five starts and gave up an unsightly 6.94 ERA that necessitated a trade for Dan Haren at the deadline. On the bullpen side, free agent pickup Rafael Soriano has looked very rusty in six games giving up four earned run and eight hits. James Russell has struggled to a 6.00 ERA and Pedro Strop lost two sure wins for the team. The Cubs traded for Tommy Hunter in an effort to shore up a bullpen that pitched to a 4.06 ERA for the month.
Unfortunately, a lot of the team’s excellent pitching performances were largely wasted thanks to a sputtering offense. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have carried the team offensively all year, but disappeared in July. Bryant led the team with four home runs and 17 RBI, but batted just .168 with 37 strikeouts. Rizzo wasn’t much better batting just .250 and with only seven extra base hits. The biggest disappointment by far though has been Starlin Castro, his .396 OPS is the worst on the team.
There have been some bright spots on offense, most notably the continued success of Kyle Schwarber who earned another call-up due to an injury to Miguel Montero. In just 43 at bats, he led the team with a .302 average with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI. Schwarber has definitely been exciting, but the most refreshing performance has come from leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Fowler went on quite the tear batting .275 with 21 walks. Jonathan Herrera was also a nice surprise batting .300.
Overall, despite a positive result record wise, July was a trying month for the Cubs. All month, many of their young hitters like Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Kris Bryant really struggled to be consistent bats. It’s easy to forget that the core of this team is all under 25 and growing pains are a part of their maturation process. Those growing pains suggest that the Cubs may not be full blown contenders just yet. Their core is really going to have dig in during August if they hope to earn the second wild card spot and have any hope of advancing through the playoffs.
2015 Cubs Month in Review
• Follow Chris on Twitter: @TheChrisKulawik