Since the last update in this series, the Cubs took two of three from a good Brewers team, split a series in Cincinnati that they should probably have won, and dominated the Giants in that series opener at Wrigley Field.
Let’s have a look at who’s hot and who’s not for the Chicago Cubs as we get deep into September baseball.
Justin Steele comes up big time
Steele has been the Cubs’ best and most consistent pitcher all year, but in two starts over the last week has stepped things up a notch. Against the Brewers and Giants, Steele threw 14 innings, allowed eight hits and three walks (0.786 WHIP), no runs, and struck out 20. His 12 K’s Monday against the Giants were not only a career high, but the most for any Cubs pitcher in almost four years, since Yu Darvish struck out 12 Cardinals September 22, 2019.
While Steele does have strong competition for the N.L. Cy Young Award (Blake Snell, Logan Webb, Zac Gallen, among others), he’s definitely in the conversation.
Ian Happ misses Cincinnati already
Happ went 0-for-3 Monday, but even so, his big series against the Reds gave him a week where he batted .345/.429/.690 (10-for-29) with four doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. Since August 25, Happ has raised his season OPS from .759 to .790.
Cody Bellinger is an RBI machine
Over the last week Bellinger hit .303/.314/.576 (10-for-33) with three home runs and nine RBI. He now has 84 RBI for the season, despite missing almost a month with a knee injury.
Granted that RBI aren’t the be-all and end-all of statistics, the last Cubs to have 100 or more in a season were Javier Báez (111) and Anthony Rizzo (101) in 2018. Bellinger seems likely to pass that milestone.
Dansby Swanson is still not hitting
Swanson did hit a couple of doubles over the last week, when his slash line was .226/.265/.290 (7-for-31). He also struck out nine times, and his OPS stands at .745, which is around a low ebb since mid-June.
Back to the drawing board for Jameson Taillon
Taillon made two starts over the last week. The Cubs won one of the games because, well, they scored 15 runs. But Taillon posted a 6.94 ERA and his WHIP over the two games was 1.372 even though he didn’t walk anyone in 11⅔ innings.
This is going to be a lost season for Taillon and I suspect, presuming the Cubs do make the postseason, he won’t be on the playoff roster.
A complete reset over the winter and I think Taillon can still be a solid contributor going forward.
Another guy who needs a reset is Christopher Morel
Morel has always been a streaky hitter and recently, he’s been in a bad slump. That continued over the five games he played in the last week, in which he went 2-for-11 with four strikeouts. That is simply a continuation of what’s been happening for Morel for a month. In 23 games since August 3: .127/.215/.239 (9-for-71) with two doubles, two home runs and 29 strikeouts. Yikes.
But, as I said, Morel is a streaky hitter. One of those two home runs noted above was the thrilling walkoff against the White Sox. Perhaps he can capture that magic again in September.
Sure, why not? Even though it’s not from the last week, I know you’d love to see that Morel walkoff again, so here it is [VIDEO].
Where will the Cubs finish the 2023 regular season?
This poll is closed
N.L. Central champions
First wild card
Second wild card
Third wild card
Miss the postseason