The Chicago Cubs had a spectacular season last year only to run into Daniel Murphy having the post season of a lifetime and getting swept in the NLCS. This year, their starting pitching is one of the best in baseball and that could catapult them to the top. Let's take an in-depth look.
The Wrong Place At the Wrong Time
When the Cubs faced the Mets, in the NLCS, there was no Steve Bartman. They simply ran into a team that wasn't going to lose and the taste of being swept in front of their home town fans is still with them. This season, the Cubbies starting rotation is again impressive and with the addition of veteran., John Lackey (13-10, 2.77), this will be a tough team to beat as Lackey has actually, like fine wine, improved with age.
Experience and No Decline
We'll stay with Lackey for the moment as he doesn't have the pressure of being the #1 guy on a stacked rotation. What Lackey will do for the Cubs is give them innings and give the bullpen rest, making them a solid MLB pick.
Last season, Lackey finished the season with 218 innings. For a 37 year old pitcher entering his 13th season, he can be considered to have a rubber arm and every team needs one. The good thing about this “rubber arm” is that the quality of his pitching hasn't declined. Lackey makes for the perfect guy in the number 3 spot in the rotation.
The Season of a Lifetime
While Zack Greinke was sailing along with, defeating every opposing team in site, 29 year old Cubs starter, Jake Arrieta basically came out of nowhere to steal the National League Cy Young Award from Greinke.
This was a career year for Arrieta as he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and was unbeatable towards the end of the season when it counted.
To go along with his impressive 1.77 ERA, Arrieta held opposing batters to a mere .185 batting average including 236 strikeouts and allowing just 48 walks. Arrieta really had a storybook season as he was stingy where the longball was concerned.
While Jon Lester, who was an amazing pitcher coming over from the Oakland Athletics in his own right, was set to be the starter, I think it's assumed that Arrieta will open up the season as the ace. Although I don't know if we can expect similar numbers from Arrieta, don't expect a major dropoff.
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Speaking of Jon Lester, he should be slated in as the number 2 pitcher, but that remains to be seen. One thing that Lester didn't receive last season was a ton of run support on a good hitting team.
For the season, he finished 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA while striking out 207 batters. This is another pitcher that rarely gives up walks; 47 in 205 innings to be exact. If the opposing hitter wants to get on base against this 10 year left handed veteran, he will have a tough time and the Cubs should receive a lot of production from the tandem of Arrieta and Lester, improving their World Series chances.
To close out the rotation, Jason Hammel (10-7, 3.74) and Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95) can both do the job as they are both two pitchers that fit into the Cubs mold of not allowing free passes and possess a good deal of experience. If you didn't know why the Cubs were a team to fear, their starting rotation clearly explains why they can beat the MLB odds regularly, and we haven't even mentioned their offense.