— SouthBend Cubs Radio (@SBCubsRadio) July 1, 2016
For the month of June, five South Bend Cubs starting pitchers had ERAs of under 1.80. For a pitching staff, that is unbelievable! For those pitchers, it is phenomenal! For the South Bend Cubs, it also helped the team capture the Eastern Division title and a playoff spot on the last day of the first half, thanks in large part to that pitching.
Prior to the season beginning, I thought that the starting pitching would be the strength of this team in 2016. The main reasons for that were the arms and track records of Justin Steele, Carson Sands, and Oscar de la Cruz. Things have not worked out as planned. De la Cruz has been nursing an elbow injury in Arizona all spring while Steele had some issues and was sent down to Eugene at the beginning of June. Sands, on the other hand, has been very good since May 1.
In addition, there were other pitchers that I thought would be very good. I knew Preston Morrison was gonna be great. It just took him a month to get going. I thought that Kyle Twomey would do well as a starter, but he’s been amazing as a reliever. I did predict that Casey Bloomquist was going to break out, but no one foresaw Kyle Miller as a starting pitcher and I didn’t see Bloomquist being as good as he has been. That is the key. They have turned into outstanding pitchers beyond what one could have hoped.
For that, I think you have to credit the pitchers for their hard work they put in under the tutelage of David Rosario, the pitching coach of South Bend. Rosario’s approach to pitching, especially fastball command, is somewhat legendary in the organization. One should also give credit to Manager Jimmy Gonzalez for juggling the rotation and not being afraid to make changes to the starting rotation at the beginning of June. When Miller and Bloomquist joined the rotation, the Cubs’ pitching took off for the month.
Looking at the progression of the starters throughout the year, you see how poor April was. Now, I chalked up a little bit of that high ERA to the crappy weather they played in. I think the first three nights involved snow, and none of the pitchers looked comfortable, especially the California kids. The weather changed, but I don’t think expectations did. I think expectations were amped up a little bit by Gonzalez and Rosario.
I don’t know what they’re going to do with Adbert Alzolay. He’s been down at this point. He came out on fire in April and was one of the best pitchers in the organization for the month. I don’t think you can discount him and then just throw him away. I think the Cubs are going to give him a chance to recoup and recover the next two months. On Sunday, he went 7 innings, gave up 3 runs, but it was one of his better starts in a while.
I also hope that Oscar de la Cruz can get healthy. He is really a power arm the Cubs lack. I think he could bring a certain viciousness to the mound for the postseason if the Cubs can get him ready. I think they have the time, and since they already have qualified for the playoffs, they also have the luxury to work him in slowly.
Right now, the South Bend staff looks like it’s built to win in the second half again. I think what the South Bend Cubs are going to want to do is to continue to develop these arms with a look towards who might be the best starters for the playoffs. Every night they look very good, not quite unhittable, but extremely close.