Mar 31, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of an opening day baseball game at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

OPINION: Chicago Cubs’ pitching a major bright spot early on


If a handful of plays had gone differently, the Chicago Cubs may be entering Tuesday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 4-2 record, rather than a 2-4 mark.

However, as Cubs fans know, playing the ‘what-if’ game is dangerous. Moving forward, we all know the team is 2-4 and Cardinals and White Sox fans are already writing this team off as just another bad, bad year for the North Siders.

If you ask Jeff Samardzija and company, I’d bet they have something quite different to say.

Through the season’s first six games (an admittedly small sample size), Cubs pitching has a 2.54 ERA – which ranks sixth in all of Major League Baseball. The staff’s four quality starts is tied for the second-best mark amongst the 30 big league clubs and the .209 clip opposing hitters have posted is the seventh-best mark among pitching staffs.

Needless to say, it’s been a pretty solid start to the season for Chicago pitchers.

Jeff Samardzija – who was oft-connected to multiple trade rumors during the offseason – has been absolutely brilliant in his two starts, allowing just a pair of earned runs in 14 innings. However, the right-hander remains winless thanks to the sporadic performance of the Cubs’ offense, which has scored just 16 runs (2.67 per game) – which ranks better than just three other teams through the season’s first six contests.

Another bright spot has been Edwin Jackson, who, after coming off a disappointing 18-loss season, began the season slated as first-year manager Rick Renteria‘s number two starter. In his first start of the season, Jackson pitched into the sixth inning, allowing just one earned run against the Pirates at PNC Park.

The right-hander will take on Clint Hurdle and the Pirates again on Tuesday, this time at Wrigley Field, looking for his first win of the season. Another strong start would help assuage the fears of many Cubs fans who have already written off Jackson’s four-year, $52 million contract as a bust.

Perhaps the most notable work on the mound during the season’s first week came via Carlos Villanueva who has been a man of many trades for Renteria early on. Although he’s pitched to the tune of a 4.26 ERA in his three appearances, which include one start, the right-hander has shown a willingness to do whatever is asked – something that, in my opinion, is the biggest asset this pitching staff could possibly have moving forward.

Apart from the back end of the pen, where James Russell and Jose Veras have been abysmal early on, this Cubs’ pitching staff has the makings of a solid big league group. The real question now – as it has been the past few seasons – is simple: can the team score enough runs to back the pitchers’ efforts?

Tags: Carlos Villanueva Chicago Cubs Edwin Jackson Jeff Samardzija