One Analysis Loves the Cubs' Starting Pitchers Much More Than You Might Expect

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One Analysis Loves the Cubs’ Starting Pitchers Much More Than You Might Expect

Analysis and Commentary

kyle hendricks chicago cubs

Although the Cubs starting rotation has been ranked among the top five in baseball on two separate occasions, I’d argue that most fans will be reluctant to label pitching as a strength for this particular team.

I’d disagree with that notion, but I genuinely understand the thinking, especially when you compare the pitching to the loaded lineup.

But once more this offseason, by yet another measure, the Chicago Cubs starting staff has received high praise and are expected to be, individually, among the best starting pitchers in baseball.

At FanGraphs, Tony Blengino takes a look at the likely starting pitchers from each division in baseball and uses their batted ball data to better determine who might perform the best in the coming season.

Out of the 25 pitchers listed (five per team, in the NL Central), the Chicago Cubs have three of the top five, and five of the top ten from 2015. Indeed, that is very high praise; here’s how the top ten in the NL Central rank out:

  1. Jake Arrieta
  2. Jon Lester
  3. Jamie Garcia
  4. Kyle Hendricks
  5. Gerrit Cole
  6. Carlos Martinez
  7. Francisco Liriano
  8. Mike Fiers
  9. John Lackey
  10. Jason Hammel

For the rest of the list, their corresponding batted ball data and a full write up on most of the pitchers, check out Blengino’s article at FanGraphs here.

While Jake Arrieta (and even Jon Lester, to an extent) aren’t much of a surprise at the top of the division, Kyle Hendricks certainly is. Coming in ahead of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha (among many, many others) is quite the encouraging analysis.

Blengino calls Hendricks an underrated starter and acknowledges that he completely transformed himself in his first full season as a starter, increasing his K-rate and “morphing from a pop-up generator to a grounder inducer.” We’ve spoken about it before, but Blengino is right. Hendricks did an amazing job last season, at recognizing his areas of weakness and addressing them throughout the season. In fact, there was significant evidence how and why Hendricks improved dramatically in the second half. If he can hold onto some of those changes, he will be a huge part of the Cubs’ rotation for the upcoming season.

On Lackey and Hammel, Blengino finds some less-exciting, but very consistent qualities. “John Lackey is one durable cat … there is nothing in his profile to discuss a near-term implosion; his decline will be slow and steady.” For a middle of the rotation starter on a team-friendly two-year deal, that is plenty to be happy about. As for Hammel, Blengino acknowledges his warts, but believes he was one of the better fifth starters in all of baseball. If he can simply keep his strikeout rate steady, he too, should be a solid, usable starting pitcher for the upcoming season.

For more on Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and the rest of the pitchers in the NL Central, I encourage you to take a look at Blengino’s article here. We often get used to measuring a pitcher’s past or future success on a familiar series of statistics, so looking at everyone through a different lens can be very educational … especially when it puts the Cubs on top.


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.