Cubs Month in Review – August 2016
After a tough July, many Cubs fans were worried if their favorite team had run out of gas and their fast start was merely that. A sizzling August has put all those fears to rest and reaffirmed the Northsiders as baseball’s best team, let’s take a look back at the Cubs’ best month yet.
- Team Record: 22-6
- Team Average: .276
- Team ERA: 2.66
- Top Hitter: Kris Bryant
- Top Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks
- Team Record: 19-9
- Team Average: .253
- Team ERA: 4.15
- Top Hitter: Kris Bryant
- Top Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
The team had their far and away best month offensively, batting a collective .276/.347.460 scoring 146 runs and slugging 52 doubles, eight triples, 37 home runs and 134 RBI.
Leading the charge was Kris Bryant who had an astounding month and likely moved himself ahead of teammate Anthony Rizzo in the NL MVP race. Overall he had a stunning .383/.472/.748 line with seven doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 22 RBI and one stolen base. Batting in the two-hole, he scored an amazing 29 runs and his 111 runs scored are tops in the majors so far.
Rizzo or otherwise known as the other half of Bryzzo was no slouch, batting .324 and leading the team with eight doubles. He also chipped in two triples, two home runs and drove in 14 runs.
Other bright spots to the offense came from players like Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward.
Contreras showed he could make adjustments and raised his batting average almost 60 points from the month before to .288 and added eight extra base hits with four doubles and four home runs. He earned the lion share of starts at his position and caught games for Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, a likely precursor for the playoffs.
Soler came back from a long injury layoff and again showed the promise he did in the playoffs last season. In just 62 at bats, Soler batted a healthy .306/.371/.613 with four doubles and five home runs while driving in 14 batters. Russell showed a power surge as well blasting seven home runs and leading the team with 23 RBI.
Also encouraging was the return to form by veteran hitters Zobrist and Heyward. Zobrist posted a solid .270 average after a putrid June and July and walked 14 times. Heyward’s .613 OPS for August hardly seems impressive, but a four-game layoff did wonders for Heyward. In his last nine games of the month, he scorched the ball batting .333 with three doubles, one home run and five RBI versus an awful .188 with two doubles and one RBI for the rest of the month.
Lost in the offensive parade were struggles by some key contributors Javier Baez, Matt Szczur, Miguel Montero, David Ross and Tommy La Stella. Baez just couldn’t get it going and despite regular at bats stumbled to a .220/.253/.341 line and struck out in 29% of his at bats. Szczur’s numbers fell to earth as he batted just .244, but he did add five walks. Montero and Ross took a back seat to a surging Contreras and batted a collective .231 with two doubles, one home run and seven RBI.
La Stella on the other hand collected just two at bats in the month of August after a bad reaction to being demoted at the end of July. Unlike Chris Coghlan, La Stella had a minor league option remaining and the Cubs wanted to keep Coghlan on the roster without having to designate him for assignment in an effort to send him down. La Stella threatened to retire rather than playing in the minors and it took the front office almost the whole month to convince him to return. La Stella’s left handed bat and versatility make him a valuable bench bat going into September and it will be interesting to see if the long layoff will affect his timing and possibility of earning a playoff roster spot.
With the bats on fire, the pitching doused cold water on its opponents despite losing key contributors John Lackey, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Joe Smith to the disabled list.
The starting rotation hardly missed a beat without Lackey going 17-2 in 28 starts with a 2.16 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 150 strikeouts in 175.1 innings.
Kyle Hendricks continued to dominate winning four of his six starts, giving up just six earned runs and seven walks in 42.1 innings while striking out 36. Jon Lester wasn’t too far behind winning three of his five starts with a 2.10 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 25.2 innings.
Jake Arrieta was a workhorse like Hendricks and pitched 39.2 innings in five starts and won four of those games. He has continued to show wildness at times, but even with a team leading 12 earned runs and 18 walks for the month, he still posted a 2.72 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Hammel also had his rough spots including a stretch where nine earned in 5.2 IP, but he still managed to go 4-2 with a 2.84 ERA.
Mike Montgomery and Trevor Cahill started three games in place of Lackey and acquitted themselves well. In three starts, the tandem pitched to a 1-0 record with a 2.51 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 14.1 innings.
Like the starters, the bullpen also had a resurgent month pitching to a 5-4 record with a 3.73 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 11 saves and striking out 104 batters in just 84 innings. Making it even more impressive was the fact that the squad was missing their top two setup men in Rondon and Strop.
Stepping up in their absence were pitchers like Aroldis Chapman, Justin Grimm and Rob Zastryzny. Chapman has been a steadying influence providing a dominating stopper to the top of the bullpen. He was a workhorse appearing in 15 games, notching 11 saves with a 1.38 ERA and striking out 22 batters in just 13 innings. Grimm’s demotion to the minors got his head right and he’s back to being his old reliable self that the team could rely on to kill rallies and preserving leads. In 12 games, he gave up just one earned run while striking out 17 batters in 11 innings. Zastryzny had a hard road to the majors, but has impressed in his short time in the big show and could be auditioning to take the place of Travis Wood, who is a free agent at the end of the year. In four appearances, Zastryzny pitched multiple innings twice and gave up just one earned run while striking out 11 batters in 8.1 innings.
Speaking of Travis Wood, he just hasn’t been able to recapture the magic he had last season. While his overall numbers have been solid, in August he pitched to a troubling 6.10 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in 14 appearances. Felix Pena and Spencer Patton also struggled last month as both have shown power arms who can miss bats, but in seven combined appearances and eight innings both have been very hittable giving up eight hits, five earned runs and walking six. Carl Edwards Jr. also had uninspiring numbers with an unsightly 6.00 ERA in 10 appearances, but take away a rough outing where he gave up five earned runs in just two thirds of an inning, Edwards would have had a fantastic 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 12 strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
It only took until the second to the last month of the season, but this Cubs team showed the domination it was capable of. When firing on all cylinders, the depth of the lineup and the strong starting pitching could be very hard to beat come October. With the playoffs just around the corner, next month will give the team a chance to try out some young players for next year and figure out the best combination for their playoff roster.
2016 Cubs Month in Review
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