Cubs Month in Review – September/October 2016
September was a month full of milestones for the Chicago Cubs. On the 15th, the club clinched the National League Central crown after the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants. The squad was the earliest to win a divisional crown since the 2008 Angels and finished a staggering 17.5 games ahead in the standings.
On the 23rd, the team beat the Cardinals 5-0 and a loss by the Nationals later that evening caused the Cubs to clinch home field advantage in the NL playoffs. Just two days later, the team finished 57-24 at Wrigley and broke a team record set in 1935 for most wins at home. The game was an emotional one for David Ross who hit his 10th home run of the season and was saluted by fans four times during the game. The next day, the Cubs won their 100th game of the season. Overall, the team finished 18-11 over the final month of the season. Let’s take a look back at the final frame of one of the greatest seasons in Chicago Cubs history.
When looking back at why this team was so dominant, the number one reason has been the starting pitching. Eight pitchers took the ball in September and posted a 14-9 record, 3.30 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 164 strikeouts in 177.1 innings. Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester spent the month duking it out for the NL Cy Young with strong showings. Hendricks finished the season off strong winning three of his five starts, giving up just eight earned on 25 hits while striking out 31 in 31 innings. Meanwhile, Lester pitched to a 5-1 record with a 1.48 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. He won five starts in a row and gave up just two earned runs in that span. John Lackey solidified a spot in the postseason rotation by averaging six innings pitched in five starts with a 3.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Jake Arrieta had probably his worst month in recent memory winning just two of his five games and his final start he was blown up for 10 hits and seven earned runs in just five innings. The team will need Arrieta to be right if they hope to win the World Series. Jason Hammel’s final month probably pushed him off the postseason roster as he toiled in four starts to a terrible 1-3 record, 8.71 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. Three other pitchers made starts to help ease the workload on the rotation and acquitted themselves well in five starts. Together, Mike Montgomery, Jake Buchanan and Rob Zastryzny nabbed a win, struck out 20 batters in 23.2 innings and posted a 1.90 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.
The bullpen kept pace with the starters and had their second best month with a solid 3-2 record, seven saves, 3.18 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 87.2 innings. Aroldis Chapman remained as the most dominant pitcher in the Cubs arsenal with four saves, one win, giving up just two hits and no earned runs while striking out 17 batters in 10 innings. Travis Wood bounced back from a rough two months and in 10 appearances allowed just one batter to reach base in 7.1 innings. Joe Smith and Trevor Cahill also impressed and ate some needed innings combining for a 1.69 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 21.1 innings.
Despite the improved numbers, the bullpen still wasn’t without its worry as mainstays Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards Jr., were very erratic and cast some doubts to their reliability heading into the postseason. In 29 appearances, the trio was far from lights out giving up an astonishing 28 hits, 19 earned runs and 12 walks in 25 innings.
The offense also had its ups and downs and finished with a .248/.335/.408 slash line with 136 runs scored, 51 doubles, seven triples, 32 home runs, 129 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
Leading the charge was Anthony Rizzo. He batted a remarkable .287/.357/.525 with six doubles, six home runs and 16 RBI. Not too far behind, Dexter Fowler returned to form reaching base 46 times in 25 games. Javier Baez rebounded to a robust .284 and tied for second in 12 RBI. In part time at bats, Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan secured themselves playoff roster spots with convincing numbers. Contreras batted .333 while splitting catching duties with Ross and Montero. Montero had his best month and posted an .896 OPS in 12 games. Coghlan likely earned himself the starting left fielder job thanks to an injury to Jorge Soler and an impressive .286/.407/.449 slash line.
In order for the Cubs to go far in the postseason, they’re going to need quality contributions from bats like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Bryant ended his final month with a weak .221 average and as last year’s exit to the Mets showed, both he and Rizzo need to be hitting to keep this offense going. Russell also has to hit better than .214 if he’s going to hit after Bryzzo in the lineup. However, having nine of his 18 hits go for extra bases is a reason to be optimistic. Speaking of optimism, Zobrist started his month with a terrible five hits in his first 50 at bats, but in his last 10 games he went an absolute tear with 14 hits, nine walks, two doubles, one triple, three home runs and nine RBI in just 30 at bats. On the other hand, Heyward has continued to have a season to forget, batting just .212, but he drove in 12 and scored 11 runs.
The players and fans alike are chomping at the bit to see if the Cubs can finally do the impossible. Of course, this team isn’t without its flaws, but this team has shown time after time that they can get it done when it counts at the plate, on the mound and in the field. A record breaking season will not mean as much if this team does not achieve the ultimate goal.
2016 Cubs Month in Review
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