September can be a good month or a bad month for baseball teams. As the last month of the regular season, it can be a time when a team makes a run to the playoffs or lose a likely playoff spot by playing poorly in the month. The Cubs just had one of the bigger September baseball collapses in recent memory. They went from a likely postseason team to out of the playoff picture in just a matter of weeks. Here are some of the factors that led to the Cubs missing the postseason for the first time since 2014.
1. Losing during the home stretch
Part of the streak including being swept by the Cardinals, who they were chasing for first place in the NL Central, in a four-game series at home. That represented the Cardinals’ first four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field since 1921.
On September 16, the Cubs had a 76.7% chance of making the playoffs. After the Cardinals series, the odds were down to 2.1% on September 23, and they were eliminated from playoff contention the next day. Overall for September, they were 11-16.
2. Bullpen issues
When the Cubs signed veteran closer Craig Kimbrel during the season, they thought he would provide them with a reliable ninth-inning option to close out games, but that didn’t happen. He ended up with three blown saves in 16 opportunities — and he took the loss in two of the four losses against the Cardinals in that September sweep at Wrigley.
In the Saturday game of that series — which was Kimbrel’s last appearance of 2019 — he entered the game with an 8-7 lead, then he proceeded to give up solo home runs on each of his first two pitches. That gave the Cardinals the 9-8 lead, which would end up being the final score. The Cubs had five save opportunities in September, and they blew four of them.
3. Injured stars
The injury bug hit the Cubs late in the season, with some of their best players dealing with mainly minor injuries that either limited their performance or caused them to miss time in September.
Former MVP Kris Bryant played in only 18 games and had 60 at-bats in the month, but the bigger injury concern was Javier Baez. The infielder made only one start and had four plate appearances in the entire month, which delivered a big blow to the Cubs’ lineup in the most important month of the regular season.
4. Road woes
The Cubs were a dismal 33-48 on the road for the season, which included a 5-9 mark in September. The September losses away from Wrigley hurt the Cubs because five of those losses came against the Padres and Pirates, who were long out of contention by that point in the season.
Two of the nine September road losses were walk-offs, one against San Diego and the other against the Brewers, who the Cubs were competing with for a playoff spot. When the Cubs faced the Brewers at Miller Park early in the month, they lost three of the four games in that series, which — although it wasn’t apparent at the time — may have been the beginning of the end of the Cubs’ playoff hopes.
5. Managerial issues?
Whether manager Joe Maddon was responsible for the September struggles or not, there had to be a fall guy for the Cubs not making the playoffs, and it was him. He was in the final year of his contract, and the team decided not to give him a new deal. He is out as the Cubs’ manager after five seasons, which included the Cubs winning their first World Series title in more than a century in 2016.