Cubs Month in Review – May 2016
Regression is a popular word thrown around baseball these days. It’s a term that refers to a player or team returning back to statistics that are more in line with their track record or expectations. In terms of the Chicago Cubs, an 18-10 record for the month of May was a regression from their outstanding 17-5 of April.
In May, the team succumbed to the fickleness of baseball and showed they were human. Let’s take a look back as to what led them there.
- Team Record: 18-10
- Team Average: .259
- Team ERA: 2.81
- Top Hitter: Ben Zobrist
- Top Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
- Team Record: 14-14
- Team Average: .231
- Team ERA: 3.62
- Best Hitter: Anthony Rizzo
- Best Pitcher: Jon Lester
While the team netted an eight-game and six-game winning streaks last month, the Cubs also lost three total series including to lesser teams like the Padres and Brewers. In April, the team lost just one series. The Cubs have simply been in more close games thanks to regression of many of their key players.
An interesting example of this is Dexter Fowler. Last month, Fowler batted .347/.474/.613. For May, Fowler has still been productive, but has a slash line of .295/.403/.476. As you can see, every category dipped by at least 50 points or more. Also interesting is Anthony Rizzo, who in May batted .250 with three home runs and 13 RBI. In April, his average was a lowly .218, but smashed eight home runs and 24 RBI. While his average increased, he wasn’t making the most of his opportunities.
Other disappointments at the plate for May included Jason Heyward, Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella. Heyward struggled to a meager .217/.301/.301 with four doubles, a home run, six RBI and three steals. He has historically been weak to start the season and a sore wrist and hip contusion suffered in a scary outfield play likely didn’t help matters. Baez was a nice surprise in April, but a .217 average in May was a dip of almost 100 points from the previous month. La Stella also saw a similar drop off with a .227 average that was almost a 200-point drop off from April’s .400.
For some of the Cubs hitters though, regression was the furthest from their minds. Ben Zobrist had the best May of his entire career with a stellar .406/.483/.653 line with seven doubles, six home runs, 25 RBI and 25 runs scored and a 16-game hitting streak. His .445 OBP is currently the highest in baseball.
While not as extraordinary as Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, David Ross and Jorge Soler also impressed last month. While Bryant’s .274/.364/.496 slash line pales in comparison to Zobrist, his four doubles, seven home runs, 22 RBI and 20 runs scored were right on pace. Russell batted .268 for the month, but struck out 32 times. He also still continued to show a clutch bat with 17 RBI which ranked him third for May. Ross posted an .831 OPS and chipped in 11 RBI even though he took on more of the catching load as Miguel Montero returned from injury. On the surface, Soler’s .210/.310/.403 line doesn’t look like a player who deserves recognition. However, from May 18 on, Soler has looked like a completely different player. In his first 13 games, Soler was just 4-for-29 with two walks and nine strikeouts. Since, he hit .273 with three home runs, six RBI and eight runs scored.
Much like in April, the starting pitchers continued to be remarkable and perhaps the biggest reason the Cubs have had so much success. The starting five pitched to a miniscule 2.49 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
Jake Arrieta continued to pace the staff with a 4-0 record in six starts, 2.08 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 39 innings. Arrieta has seen some regression though as he’s walked four batters or more in four of his 11 starts whereas last year he did just once. Arrieta had some competition this month for best starter from John Lackey. Lackey pitched to a 2-1 record in six starts, 2.09 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 43 innings.
Perhaps the next best pitcher was Kyle Hendricks who pitched a five-hit, one-run complete game. He also notched a 2.10 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Jon Lester and Jason Hammel were no slouches either with both earning three wins.
The bullpen was another story struggling to a 3.47 ERA, exactly three quarters of a run higher than the month before. While Justin Grimm and Adam Warren were success stories in April but struggled in May. In 15 games, Grimm toiled to a 4.38 ERA, but did strike out 11 batters in 12.1 innings. Warren gave up four home runs in 11.1 innings and walked eight batters. Clayton Richard continued to falter as well giving up six earned runs in 6.1 innings. With a lack of solid left-handed options in the minors, he’ll likely get another month as the second lefty in the bullpen.
Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop lost two games for the Cubs, but rebounded and continued to be the team’s best bullpen options. Rondon gave up just two runs and struck out 15 batters in 10.1 innings. Strop gave up only three runs and struck out 15 in just 10.2 innings.
Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood were the bullpen’s biggest surprises and provided solid long relief when needed. Cahill was probably the club’s best reliever for the month giving up three runs and striking out 19 in 16.2 innings. Wood pitched four innings of scoreless ball when Hammel went down with an injury on Monday and won three games.
It’s probably apparent that the Cubs are in the midst of a special season when a regression of many of their key players means a record of 18-10. With names like Heyward and Rizzo not hitting the way they should be and the bullpen not fully settled in, it’ll be interesting to see what June will bring.
2016 Cubs Month in Review
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