If April was an announcement of an improved Chicago Cubs, May has shown a team that still has some issues before it becomes a full-blown contender. The offense and pitching couldn’t get on the same page, as the first half of the month saw the offense batting .254 and pitching to a 4.79 ERA while the second half showed an offense that hit just .210 and had a much stronger ERA of 2.32. Let’s take a look at the second month of the season.
- Team Record: 14-14
- Team Average: .231
- Team ERA: 3.62
- Top Hitter: Anthony Rizzo
- Top Pitcher: Jon Lester
- Team Record: 11-16
- Team Average: .231
- Team ERA: 3.51
- Top Hitter: Junior Lake
- Top Pitcher: Jeff Samardzija
After a solid April, the offense really fell off the map in May posting a line of .231/.309/.390 which was nearly identical to last season of .231/.299/.379. The difference between the two months is a team that posted 13 more walks and hit eight more home runs and relied on two young stars in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant to carry the offense.
Anthony Rizzo has started some early buzz for discussion for NL MVP as he followed up a great April with an even better May smashing his way to a line of .314/.411/.638 with nine doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 20 RBI and three stolen bases. He continues to demolish lefties at a .438 clip and has batted .368 with 22 of his 27 RBI with RISP so far.
Kris Bryant cooled off some in May, batting just .265, but his power has really taken off, slugging seven home runs for the month while adding 22 RBI and leading the team in walks for May with 16. In fact, Rizzo and Bryant are among the top 15 in OBP in all of baseball (Rizzo fourth, Bryant 12th).
Other solid months came from rookies Addison Russell and Jorge Soler. Russell has seemed to adjust after a rough start to his young career batting .279. He finished third on the team with a .485 slugging percentage thanks to nine doubles and four home runs all while batting exclusively ninth in Joe Maddon’s lineup. Soler hasn’t yet shown the power he did in his initial debut last season but has acquitted himself well hitting .288 with eight doubles, two home runs and nine RBI.
In contrast, leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler was able to get on base thanks to working 15 walks, but batted a measly .189. Starlin Castro also has had a rough month posting a terrible .221/.264/.274 that was reminiscent of his terrible 2013 season. Chris Coghlan stayed cold for most of May, but went on a roll with 11 hits in his last 34 at bats.
The team also missed the presence of Chris Denorfia off the bench, who has been injured most of the month. He’s 4-for-6 in pinch hitting and without him the team has batted just .106.
Despite the offensive struggles, the starters have really locked in and kept the Cubs in a lot of games that has likely led to their even record. Jon Lester was much better in May than April and led the starters with 41 innings in six starts and a sparkling 1.71 ERA. Jason Hammel continued his hot start with 35 strikeouts in 35 innings, a 2.57 ERA and a team leading 0.82 WHIP. Kyle Hendricks pitched the first complete game shutout of the season and went from a 5.22 ERA in April to a 2.81 ERA in May. In three starts, Tsuyoshi Wada has fared well with 19 strikeouts in 15.2 innings and a 0.95 WHIP. Wada earned a chance in the rotation thanks to a demotion of Travis Wood who gave up 15 earned runs in just three starts in May.
Unfortunately, even with the starters pitching more quality innings, the relief corps continued to be unreliable managing a 4.40 ERA. Key guys Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop really struggled with Rondon blowing two saves in May and Strop suffering through three losses and a 6.43 ERA. Edwin Jackson was terrible posting an awful 7.94 ERA and 2.11 WHIP and may only still be in the bullpen thanks to his massive contract. Zac Rosscup looked more like the pitcher from last year who issued a lot of walks and got hit hard as evidenced by his seven earned runs and five walks in just 9.1 innings. However, the team received some promising performances from the likes of James Russell and Justin Grimm. Russell posted a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings in his return to the team and Grimm gave up just one earned run and struck 17 batters in nine innings. A healthy and dominant Grimm coupled with a resurgent Jason Motte, who posted a decent 3.60 ERA, could help ease some of the pressure on Strop and Rondon who need to get right for this team to be more of a competitor for the wild card.
As a young team, May showed the ups and downs that come with inexperience. So far, the core of this team has handled the growing pains fairly well and managed to scratch out a break even month despite struggles on both sides of the ball. As the weather warms, so do bats and it will be interesting to see if the team starts to take off with their hitting and if their bullpen will be able to keep balls in the park during June. Stay tuned.
2015 Cubs Month in Review
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