The Cubs Starting Pitching Has Been Scary Good

Going into the season it was pretty well known that the Cubs would have a great offense. Top to bottom of the lineup they have young, energetic, fundamentally sound hitters. That’s not including the bats they have waiting for the call in the Minors. Guys like Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, Billy McKinney and Albert Almora. All studs, all waiting for their chance.

The only real question heading into this season was how good would the Cubs starting pitching be beyond Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Now that we’re 30 games – almost 20% – into the season I thought it would be a good time to look at just how good the Cubs’ starting pitching has been.

Starting pitching breakdown

The order of the starting rotation to begin the season was Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Based on their performances to date, I’d say that Hammel is now third, Hendricks fourth and Lackey fifth. Definitely not what we expected when the Cubs signed Lackey but if you told any team in baseball that John Lackey would be their number five pitcher, they’d take it in a New York City minute.

Here are some numbers for the starting pitchers:

Jake Arrieta 6 1.13 2.78 0.203 2.75 0.88 8
Jon Lester 3 1.58 3.14 0.282 4.22 1.05 5.17
Jason Hammel 4 1.85 3.22 0.258 2 1.15 6
Kyle Hendricks 2 3.1 2.65 0.265 3.83 1 3.4
John Lackey 4 4.02 3.19 0.288 4 1.09 7.33

As you can see, all very good numbers, but, again, Lackey’s ERA and BABIP stand out. He has four wins mainly because he’s gotten the third highest run support in the National League.

In contrast, Jake Arrieta, has been dominant and also has tremendous run support – second best in the National League. As you would expect, Jake is number one in most categories except two.

The first is K/BB. In 2016 so far, his K/9 is 8.25 and his BB/9 is 3.00. Compare that to 2015 when his K/9 was 9.28 and BB/9 was 1.89. But if you look back at how he performed in April 2015 you’ll see his K/9 was 8.44 and BB/9 was 2.36. So there’s no reason for concern because I would expect those numbers to get better as the season progresses and weather warms.

The other category that Jake doesn’t lead is FIP. Somewhat surprisingly, Kyle Hendricks is number one in FIP. I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that the number five pitcher on the best team in baseball is leading the starters in FIP. Kyle hasn’t been getting any run support but he’s been pitching extremely well. He’s ranked near the bottom of the League in run support. That will change and I expect to see Kyle getting more wins when it does.

Of course, Jon Lester has been very good too. In fact he’s substantially better than he was this time last year. Through April 2015, Jon’s record was 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA and .424 BABIP. So when you hear David Ross say that Jon is pitching much better than he did to start last year, you now know why. He’s improved greatly and that’s good to see.

And finally there’s Jason Hammel. He currently has the third best ERA on the team at 1.85 and is second in BABIP at .258. Through April 2015, Jason’s record was 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA and .293 BABIP. Again, another Cubs pitcher that’s vastly improved over last year’s numbers.

Bottom line

If there was any question at the beginning of the season about the Cubs’ starting pitching, there shouldn’t be now. The Cubs are ranked number one in the Majors with a 2.26 team ERA, second with a 3.00 FIP and third with 4.7 fWAR. They’ve come out of the gate as hot as any other pitching staff and they’ve gotten the best run support, by far, in the league with 184 runs. The rest of the season is going to be a lot of fun for Cubs fans.


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