The Cubs picked a bad time for their worst month of 2019. Lowlighted by a nine-game losing streak, their September performance snuffed out any playoff hopes. Before we dive into the ugly details, here are the reviews for the first five months of the season: March/April, May, June, July, and August.
The Cubs went a disappointing 11-16 in the month of September, which means they had four winning months and two losing months for the year. The problem was none of the winning months were particularly impressive. May and August were the best at just 16-12, just underwhelming ingredients of a recipe for a record that hovered around the .500 mark all season long.
They opened September by going 3-1, including a mini-sweep of the Mariners at Wrigley. That was followed by a painful 3-5 road trip with a particularly poor 1-3 series against the Brewers that dealt a blow to their playoff chances. A five-game winning streak against the Pirates and Reds restored some hope before the bottom fell out. Chicago lost their final six games at home, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the first-place Cardinals.
Then came a sweep in Pittsburgh that officially eliminated the Cubs from postseason contention. Joe Maddon was the first casualty of the disappointing season as he mutually agreed Theo Epstein to move on in 2020. Ironically, despite having the worst record of any month, the Cubs still had a +23 run differential in September. Three lopsided wins against the Pirates in which they scored 47 runs had much to do with that. Chicago finished the season with a run differential of +97 and an expected win total (91) seven victories higher than their actual 84-78 record.
Who Was Hot?
Injuries ravaged the Cubs this month as Javy Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant all missed significant time. Kyle Schwarber was tremendous with six home runs and a 1.100 OPS for the month. Ian Happ caught fire late and hit six homers of his own with an OPS of 1.021 to capture the final NL Player of the Week award. Rizzo hit .302 in 89 at-bats despite playing through a painful ankle injury.
Yu Darvish had another big month, posting a 2.90 ERA and striking out 46 in just 26.1 innings pitched. Rowan Wick was the most effective reliever out of the bullpen with a 0.90 ERA. Alec Mills had a 1.15 ERA in 15.1 innings that featured two excellent spot starts. Tyler Chatwood had a similarly stellar 1.28 ERA in 13.1 September frames.
Who Was Cold?
Jason Heyward‘s late season struggles continued with a .232 batting average in 69 at-bats. David Bote hit just .219 in 32 at-bats while Tony Kemp hit a paltry .206 in limited action. Addison Russell (.236 BA) and Albert Almora Jr. (.111 BA) may have sealed their fates in (or out of) Chicago with poor September efforts.
José Quintana was horrible with a 11.09 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched. Craig Kimbrel was not great in limited action returning from injury allowing six runs in just 2.1 innings. Kyle Ryan faltered down the stretch, posting a 5.91 ERA in 10.2 frames. Jon Lester‘s second-half issues continued with a 4.94 ERA for the month.
The four-game home sweep by the Cardinals from September 19-22 was a devastating blow to the Cubs. All four games were one-run losses, making it all the more painful. The Thursday and Saturday defeats were the result of homers allowed by Kimbrel, who had just come off the injured list. Chicago’s playoff odds cratered after the whitewash and they were eliminated just two days later.
Game of the Month
Darvish was amazing in a win over the Padres on September 12, striking out 14 batters in seven innings of work. The win kept the Cubs’ playoff chances alive and earned a key series split. Darvish’s terrific second half inspires hope he can be the staff ace in 2020.
Well, that wraps up the 2019 Cubs season. This is the first time in five seasons that they aren’t playing more than their scheduled slate, which obviously isn’t the finish anyone wanted. Hope springs eternal, however, and we are just six months away from a new season that might actually be dictated by the urgency everyone expected this year.
Thanks for reading.