As the Cubs near the halfway mark of the season, we are starting to get a clearer picture of who this team is and where they may be going. It’s clear that the club is much improved over a year ago, but after a sweep at the hands of division leader and rival the St. Louis Cardinals, this is a team with a ways to go before they are full-blown contenders. Let’s take a look back at June.
- Team Record: 14-13
- Team Average: .250
- Team ERA: 3.15
- Top Hitter: Chris Coghlan
- Top Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
- Team Record: 15-13
- Team Average: .227
- Team ERA: 3.26
- Top Hitter: Starlin Castro
- Top Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
If you compare the numbers from last season to this one, it doesn’t seem that has a lot has changed for the Cubs. In 2014, June was one of two of the team’s winning months and this year’s squad has not had a record below .500 once. A team that wins regardless of their situation is the mark of a team on the rise and this month has its fair share of ups and downs. In the offense department, the team put together a line of .250/.319/.382, their second best mark for the season which is not bad considering Jorge Soler was gone all month with an injury.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant continued to be the team’s offensive leaders but suffered dips in their overall numbers. Rizzo posted a line of .269/.353/.538 with six home runs and 14 RBI while Bryant posted a line of .267/359/.446 with three home runs and 11 RBI. The best overall hitter of the month was Chris Coghlan who batted .317/.434/.451 and finally solidified left field. Coghlan heated up last summer as well, so hopefully it’s a recurring theme, because they are going to need his hot bat for the stretch drive. Another couple of bats that performed well were Chris Denorfia and Mike Baxter. The veteran outfielders filled in for the hole left by Soler and combined to bat .295. The month also featured an exciting debut by Kyle Schwarber who joined the team for six games and was the DH for an inter-league stretch. He slugged eight hits total including a triple, a home run and six RBI in just 22 at bats. Those numbers may earn him another call-up if the Cubs need an infusion of offense in August and may save them from trading for a bat at the deadline.
Despite all the bright spots, there are still some alarming trends among a few players that need to be rectified if this team is going to take the next leap towards contention. First of all, Starlin Castro needs to hit more consistently. His numbers took an overall jump from May, but a .245/.284/.343 line with just five extra base hits is not going to cut it for a team that needs to rely on his veteran bat for a young lineup. Same goes for Miguel Montero who bashed four home runs for the month, but batted a weak .211. Dexter Fowler had his second straight month of a below .300 OBP and may force Joe Maddon to find other options in the leadoff spot. Addison Russell looked strong in the first half, but slumped badly in the second half to bat just .221. In Russell’s case as a 21-year old rookie, ups and downs are to be expected.
Speaking of ups and downs, that was the bullpen’s calling card for the first two months of the season, but definitely not for June. Perhaps all the talk from the front office of the need to improve in the area lit a fire under them as they posted a magnificent 1.63 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Jason Motte emerged as formidable setup crew earning seven saves and giving up just two earned runs between them. Justin Grimm and Edwin Jackson also impressed with Grimm striking out 13 batters in 9.2 innings and Jackson allowing just two earned runs in 16.1 innings.
The strong bullpen was wasted a lot of nights thanks to an erratic starting staff that’s 4.13 ERA likely robbed the team of potential wins. After a solid May, Jon Lester struggled again in June going 0-3 in five starts with a 5.74 ERA and the fewest innings of their top four pitchers. Kyle Hendricks also disappointed with a 2-3 record and 4.78 ERA. Jake Arrieta bounced back from an uneven May posting a 3-1 record, 2.45 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. If not for Arrieta’s excellent month, Jason Hammel would have taken the top spot, thanks to a 2.80 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, but those numbers kept him as the team’s best overall starter. The combination of Tsuyoshi Wada and Donn Roach stumbled to a 6.16 ERA and because of Wada’s injury it’s clear the team needs an upgrade here sooner rather than later.
As a whole, the Cubs are starting to show an overall pattern for where the team is likely to finish the year. For the most part, the pitching staff has been able to keep the team in games, but the offense hasn’t shown enough regularity to take over games when it’s needed. In order for the team to make the leap into contention for July, the Cubs clearly needs some upgrades in the starting staff and some more dependability from their veterans like Jon Lester, Starlin Castro, Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler. If not, Cubs fans may just be on the outside looking in for one more year.
2015 Cubs Month in Review
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