The Cubs come off an 8-21 month of August which is the difference of one win better than the 7-22 May from 2006. After Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were traded at the trading deadline (and Jeff Baker soon after for that matter), you count the first game played after the deadline and the Cubs are 8-22 through the end of August. The Cubs' record in the final 30 games leading up to the deadline is 19-11, which is a difference of 11 more wins and 11 less losses.
Chris Volstad was given an opportunity to fill the void left by the trading of Dempster and Maholm. It took Volstad some time, but he finally proved he's capable of not only getting a win, but shutting down his opponent every inning. Also, Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson were given the opportunity to play after Johnson and Soto were traded. Jackson came as advertised, he strikes out a lot, leading the team with 37 strikeouts in August (Soriano comes second with 28), but has some power as one-fourth of his 16 hits resulted in home runs and another 37 percent resulted as an extra base hit. Vitters has struggled with an .086 AVG in 58 at-bats within 18 games played, but I think after some "growing pains", Vitters will come around if he gets more playing time then bench time.
Also, Matt Garza was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on August 21st with a right elbow stress reaction after a couple shaky bullpen sessions. Brooks Raley was Garza's replacement before Garza was moved to the 60-day DL and made his Cubs debut on August 7th in San Diego. Raley pitched 4 innings and allowed 7 runs on 8 hits, 3 walks, a home run, and 4 strikeouts, resulting in Raley's first loss as the Cubs lost 4-7. Since Raley's debut, in his second start he lost against the Reds on August 12th, then was optioned back the the Iowa Cubs on the 13th, then recalled on the 18th for a start in the second game of a double-header at Cincinnati (he got the win), then as a reward for his win, he was optioned back to Iowa the very next day (the 19th), then recalled on the 25th for a start against the Rockies (no-decision), another no-decision against the Brewers on the 30th, and then optioned back on the 31st. So Raley has been called up from Iowa three times and optioned back three times as well. During Raley's three stints with the Chicago Cubs, he went 1-2, 2 no-decisions, 8.14 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched, 16 K's, 11 walks, 7 home runs, a .317 AVG, and 1.81 WHIP. I don't know how all the moving from Iowa to Chicago affected Raley's performance but I think it had some influence.
Meanwhile, the Cubs finalized a seven-year, $60 million contract extension with Starlin Castro on August 28th. Darwin Barney set a National League single-season record for 114 consecutive games without an error by a second baseman on August 29th, topping the record set by the Padres' David Eckstein in 2010. However, Barney was charged with an error by Bob Rosenberg on a low throw to Luis Valbuena at third base. Thankfully, Rosenberg reviewed the play and gave the error to Valbuena. Barney could tenatively break the longest errorless streak at second base record of 141 games held by Placido Polanco from the 2007 Tigers in Arizona between September 28th and 30th. It would be nice if Dale Svuem gave Barney a couple days off so he can break the record at home during the final series of the year against the Astros. I imagine something like that would draw a few more fans if Barney breaks the record at Wrigley, and I strongly emphasize the phrase "few more."
Here's the top 3 position player performers of August:
1. Luis Valbuena. Yeah, I know, of all people. Valbuena and Josh Vitters split playing time in August. Valbuena had 62 at-bats in 24 games played while Vitters had 58 at-bats in 18 games played. However, Valbuena proved he was the right choice. Valbuena led the Cubs in AVG (.306), OBP (.434), OPS (.918), WPA (0.60) and was second to Welington Castillo in SLG (.484). Meanwhile, Vitters had a .086 AVG, .115 OBP, .172 SLG, and .287 OPS. Even though Valbuena had about 60 percent of the at-bats than the "everyday" position players had, he still produced when he was given the opportunity.
2. Welington Castillo. Another pleasant surprise here. Like Valbuena, Castillo also split playing time with Steve Clevenger. Castillo had 60 at-bats in 18 games played while Clevenger had 38 at-bats in 13 games played. Castillo led the Cubs with a .533 SLG. Castillo was second to Valbuena with a .300 AVG and .877 OPS. Castillo was third with a .344 OBP.
3. David DeJesus. Once again, the Cubs' "no maintenance" player finds a spot on the list. DeJesus, as usual, never leads in any statistical category, but ranks near the top of each list. DeJesus was second to Valbuena with a .358 OBP. DeJesus ranked third with a .266 AVG, .468 SLG, .826 OPS, 25 hits, 14 RBI (tied for second with Starlin Castro), 4 homers (tied for second with Brett Jackson), and 13 walks. So nothing that's outstanding, but consistently productive.
As for other notes, Castro and Rizzo tied for most hits with 28; Soriano led with 21 RBI and 5 home runs; Castro led with 5 stolen bases; Jackson led with 15 walks. Also, Soriano was second behind Valbuena with a .56 WPA.
The top 2 starting pitchers are:
1. Jeff Samardzija. Once again, Jeff Samardzija proves to be the current "ace" of the young rotation. Samardzija made 6 starts, had the most innings pitched with 38.1 and had a 1-4 August... well the Shark didn't get much run support but stil pitched well. Samardzija led with a 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .283 OBP, 0.6 WAR and 9.86 strikeouts per 9 innings. If Samardzija wasn't leading a statistical category, he was second. He was second with a .243 AVG, .444 SLG, .727 OPS, 1.64 walks per 9 innings and 8.22 hits per 9 innings.
2. Chris Volstad. I think I could have given Travis Wood the #2 spot based on the numbers, but Volstad had a 2-2 record while Travis Wood went 0-5. Plus, I wanted to give Chris Volstad some love after he finally broke his winless streak with a 5-0 win over the Rockies on Sunday 8/26 at an 8-inning, rain-shortened Wrigley Field. Volstad led with a .387 SLG and .389 OPS. Vostad was second with a 3.72 ERA.
Other notes: Travis Wood led with a .239 AVG and an 8.03 hits per 9 innings; Justin Germano led with a 1.33 walks per 9 innings.
The most reliable relief pitcher is:
1. Carlos Marmol. Marmol didn't get too many save opportunities, but he went 4-for-4, and had 6 other appearances to pitch a total of 10 innings. Marmol led the bullpen with a 0.90 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .256 OBP, .250 SLG, .506 OPS and 11.70 strikeouts per 9 IP. Marmol was second with a .194 AVG and 6.30 hits per 9 IP. As you can imagine, Marmol's weakest category was walks per 9 IP, which was fourth in the rotation of 2.70.
Here's the "Prime 9" Cubs Win Probability Added plays of August:
9.) Fri 8/24 vs. COL (W 5-3): Bottom 8, score tied at 3, 1 out, runner on 2nd. Joe Mather hits a line drive single to right-center field off Matt Belisle. Luis Valbuena scores. Cubs lead 4-3. WPA: 22%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 87%.
8.) Thu 8/30 vs. MIL (W 12-11): Bottom 9, Cubs trail 9-11, 1 out, runners on 1st and 2nd. Starlin Castro hits a ground ball single thru SS-2B to center field off Francisco Rodriguez. David DeJesus scores and Luis Valbuena advances to 3B. Cubs trail 10-11. WPA: 26%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 45%.
7.) Thu 8/30 vs. MIL (W 12-11): Bottom 6, Cubs trail 7-9, 2 outs, bases loaded. Brett Jackson hits a line drive double down the short left field line off Manny Parra. Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano score; Welington Castillo advances to 3B. Score tied at 9. WPA: 29%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 59%.
6.) Fri 8/24 vs. COL (W 5-3): Bottom 8, Cubs trail 2-3, 0 outs, bases empty. Brett Jackson hits a solo home run to right-center field off Matt Belisle. Score tied at 3. WPA: 31%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 60%.
5.) Thu 8/9 vs. CIN (W 5-3): Bottom 6, Cubs trail 1-3, 2 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd. Starlin Castro hits a fly ball double to deep center field off Mike Leake. Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo score; Starlin Castro advances to 3B on an E-6 throwing error. Score tied at 3. WPA: 32%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 56%.
4.) Thur 8/9 vs. CIN (W 5-3): Bottom 8, score tied at 3, 1 out, runner on 1st. Alfonso Soriano hits a two-run home run to center field off Logan Ondrusek. Anthony Rizzo scores. Cubs lead 5-3. WPA: 33%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 94%.
3.) Sun 8/5 at LAD (L 6-7): Top 9, Cubs trail 5-6, 0 outs, bases empty. Anthony Rizzon hits a solo home run to right field off Kenley Jansen. Score tied at 6. WPA: 35%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 50%.
2.) Thu 8/30 vs. MIL (W 12-11): Bottom 9, Cubs trail 10-11, 1 out, runners on 1st and 3rd. Anthony Rizzo hits a ground ball double down the right field line off Francisco Rodriguez. Luis Valbuena scores and Starlin Castro advances to 3B. Score tied at 11. WPA: 39%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 84%.
1.) Sun 8/5 at LAD (L 6-7): Top 7, Cubs trail 3-4, 2 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd. Alfonso Soriano hits a fly ball double to deep left field off Javy Guerra. David DeJesus and Brett Jackson score. Cubs lead 5-4. WPA: 41%, Cubs Win Expectancy: 69%.
You may have noticed the asterisk in the headline, I recently learned from Al that the functionality of the poll was removed due to resource limitations. So in lieu of a poll, I will still list the 8 Cubs wins from August below, but you just won't be able to pick any of them unless you leave a comment as to which win was your favorite win, or maybe list a ranking of your top three Cubs wins from August or something of that nature. Happy
Voting Commenting : )
Thu 8/9: Soriano hits 20th homer in 11th straight season to beat Reds 5-3 and end the 8-game losing streak.
Mon 8/13: Run-supported Samardzija fans career-high 11 in 7-1 win over Astros.
Wed 8/15: DeJesus hits two home runs to lead Cubs to a 7-2 win over Astros.
Sat 8/18 (DH Gm. 2): Cubs win 9-7 slugfest nightcap of double-header in Cincinnati.
Fri 8/24: Cubs erase three-run deficit vs. Rockies to snap 4-game skid 5-3.
Sun 8/26: Volstad cracks into win column after 413 days and 24 starts without a win with strong outing vs. Rockies 5-0 in a rain-shortened 8-inning affair.
Thu 8/30: Cubs come from behind twice to win walk-off thriller 12-11 vs. Milwaukee.
Fri 8/31: Cubs' bats stay hot as Volstad bests Bumgarner for 6-4 win over Giants.