If I had told you before August began that the Cubs were going to fire their General Manager and put Carlos Zambrano on the "Disqualified List", would you have predicted the Cubs would have a winning month, or a losing month of August? Neither would I.
The Cubs had a 16-13 August, which is the first month since last September the Cubs had a month above .500. It all started with a well played game in St. Louis on July 31 to avoid getting swept. The Cubs went on to Pittsburgh and swept the Pirates... in four games! After the first week of August, the Cubs had a winning streak of 7 games. Before the winning streak, their longest of the season was three wins in a row, which didn't even happen until a couple weeks before the 7 game winning streak.
I am so used to making a monthly recap for a losing month. I almost don't know what to say for this reacap since I usually just bicker about how bad the Cubs played in the month they just completed. No bickering about August. However, I researched some sortable stats for the Cubs from the month of August. Here's what I found:
The Cubs led the NL in home runs (39), slugging percentage (.445), total bases (446), extra base hits (98), and they had the fewest caught stealing (16 for 17 in stolen bases). The Cubs we're sixth in runs scored (125), fourth in hits (262), fifth in doubles (51), second in triples (8), and third in OPS (.768). The only batting stats they struggled in are: 15th in sacrifices (7) and third most strikeouts (226). Cubs players who hit above .300 in August: Aramis Ramirez (.337), Reed Johnson (.367), Starlin Castro (.323), and Tony Campana (.308). Alfonso Soriano led the team with 7 home runs. Starlin Castro hit 5 homers in August... I was a bit "wow"ed when I looked that up. I was also a bit surprised to see Blake DeWitt leading the team in SLG and OPS, but he only had 32 at-bats to show for it. Conclusion: Blake DeWitt is the guy to pinch hit.
Geovany Soto had the lowest batting average (with at least 20 at-bats) of .193. The one thing that frustrates me everytime (and I'm sure all of you as well) is Marlon Byrd coming up with RISP and not working good counts. Byrd just hacks at anything close to the zone and after three pitches at the most, he's hit into an out with no runs driven in. I know Byrd is a fan favorite, and I love seeing guys hustle 150 percent regardless of what the score is. But Byrd needs to find that happy medium with hustle/aggressiveness, and being patient by selecting his spots.
Pitching: The Cubs led the NL in holds (26) and pick off's (4). They were second in saves (12), save opportunities (14), and strikeouts (229). They were fourth best in lowest opponent batting average (.242), WHIP (1.22) and OBP (.304). However, the Cubs led the NL in home runs allowed (41) and second in most wild pitches (12). Jeff Samardzija led relievers in lowest ERA (1.13) and Matt Garza led the rotation (2.45) and strikeouts (41). Kerry Wood led relievers in lowest WHIP (0.68) and Randy Wells led the rotation (0.91).
Who was not hot? Rodrigo Lopez. Big surprise, huh? (Actually it was Carlos Zambrano, but I'm talking about pitchers who actually pitched for the Cubs the whole month of August). Ro-Lo had the highest ERA of 5.68, and the highest WHIP of 1.64 (with at least 5 game starts). He gave up the most runs (24), most earned runs (20), and most hits (41). Lopez is tied with Randy Wells for most home runs allowed (8). Seriously, Rodrigo Lopez should have never had a Cubs uniform on to begin with.
One more alarming, and not surprising stat before I get to my poll. For the season, the Cubs are dead last in the majors with a .977 fielding percentage and have committed the most errors (there's a correlation there, huh?) with 114. And these errors don't include all the TOOTBLAN'S, all the missed cut off men, and all the times Starlin Castro had his back turned to the pitch delivery sucking down sunflower seeds while all the other players are set and ready for the pitch.
The Cubs went 16-13 in August. Their record going into September is 59-78, fifth place in the Central at 22 games behind the Brewers... and Braves in the Wild Card if anyone cares. It's time to bring up some star prospects and play spoiler in the month of September. The attached poll has all 16 wins from August. Which win was your favorite? Happy Voting!