After an inconsistent July where many Cubs fans and yours truly questioned if the team had what it took to stay in the mix for contention, the team responded by posting a 19-9 record. At times, the team looked unbeatable and at the same time, a young team running out of gas. Let’s take a look back at one of the most memorable Augusts in recent memory.
- Team Record: 19-9
- Team Average: .253
- Team ERA: 4.08
- Top Hitter: Kris Bryant
- Top Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
- Team Record: 16-14
- Team Average: .241
- Team ERA: 3.53
- Top Hitter: Starlin Castro
- Top Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks
To say this month was full of ups and downs is an understatement. The team had three winning streaks of three or more games and two losing streaks of the same amount. Their most impressive winning streak came when the team won 12 of their first 13 games in the month, but couldn’t keep the momentum as they went 7-8 the rest of the way. The team performed when it mattered though, compiling a 6-3 record against their wild card competitors in the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants.
Much of the team’s successful times came from an offense that exploded with a .798 OPS, bashed 44 home runs and drove in 133 runs, their best marks of the season. The major uptick in runs driven in likely stemmed from a resurgent Dexter Fowler who batted .298, got on base at a .408 clip and scored 20 runs. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo both rebounded from an abysmal July as Bryant slashed .330/.422/.620 with seven home runs and 20 RBI and Rizzo posted an .885 OPS, also hit seven home runs and drove in 21. The most surprising bounce-back came from Starlin Castro who despite being demoted from regular at-bats hit .296 raising his average over 100 points from the month before.
While many in the Cubs offense shined, some players were fairly underwhelming as August’s .253 average will attest to. Perhaps, the best example of this was Kyle Schwarber who led the team with nine home runs, 24 RBI and 26 runs but batted just .221. Addison Russell took over at shortstop and blasted four home runs and drove in 12 runs batting mostly out of the ninth spot, but slashed just .253/.278/.473. Chris Coghlan batted mostly third spot all month, but batted just .247, far from the important bat, manager Joe Maddon touted often. Chris Denorfia also cratered in August batting just .182 while filling in for an injured Jorge Soler.
The second half of August slide can likely be attributed to a pitching staff that stopped receiving the run support it enjoyed in the first half and would have managed a 4.84 ERA if it were not for a masterful month by Jake Arrieta. He won all six of his starts, struck out 43 in 42.1 innings, gave up two earned runs, had a 0.68 WHIP and pitched the 14th no-hitter in team history. In contrast, the Cubs second best starting pitcher Jason Hammel, posted an ERA almost four and a half runs higher at 4.88. Dan Haren was the worst of the five and has given up 18 earned in 25.2 innings and has not stabilized a rotation like the team has hoped and has continued to overwork the bullpen.
That overuse has shown as the bullpen struggled to a 4.16 ERA that would have been a full two runs higher if not for solid contributions from Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and Clayton Richard. In 11 innings, Rondon saved nine games and gave up just one earned run while Strop struck out 14 in 10 innings. Grimm’s four earned runs in 11.2 innings all came in one game and was Maddon’s middle inning shutdown reliever much of the month. After being designated for assignment for the second time on Aug. 3 and being brought up again on Aug. 12, Richard has stuck around thanks to a 2.70 ERA. He likely will stay for the rest of the season after fellow lefty James Russell posted an awful 11.58 ERA that earned him a ticket off the 40-man roster. Trade acquisition Tommy Hunter also hasn’t lived up to expectations with a 4.77 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
With rosters expanding in September, a young Cubs team will be able to get a chance to recharge in the home stretch of the playoff race. August taught us that when this team is on and all cylinders are firing, they can compete with the best in baseball. The key for September will be replicating that on a more consistent basis.
2015 Cubs Month in Review
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