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Chicago Cubs: Jason Hammel is proving everyone wrong

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Apr 14, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel (39) delivers in he first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 14, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel (39) delivers in he first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /
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The second half of the 2015 season was a disaster for Chicago Cubs’ starting pitcher Jason Hammel. Now, he is proving to everyone that last season was a fluke, getting off to a fantastic start in 2016. 

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Jason Hammel

has been revived. After a lackluster second half of 2015, Hammel has gotten off to a fantastic start in 2016. Through four starts this season, Hammel is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, striking out 22 batters in 24 innings. As of Saturday evening, Hammel’s ERA is third best in the entire MLB.

To put things into perspective, what Hammel is doing should come as a pleasant surprise, but also should have been expected. Before getting traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2014, Hammel went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts before the All-Star break with the Cubs. Before the break in 2015, Hammel was even better, going 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 17 starts.

The problem with Hammel has been after the All-Star break, though, not before it. After the break in 2014, Hammel went 2-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts) for the Athletics; in 2015, he was even worse, going 5-3 with a 5.10 in 14 starts following the exhibition game for the Cubs.

Essentially, Hammel having a successful start to the season and first half as a whole is nothing new, with his 2014 and 2015 numbers confirming this. Yes, his 0.75 ERA is fantastic, but the MLB season is barely a month old, meaning he has about 30 more starts in 2016, not counting any potential postseason games.

Regardless of Hammel’s past success to open a season, a 0.75 ERA is fantastic no matter what the circumstance, thus the pleasant surprise. After seeing his ERA increase each month from May-September in 2015, starting off 2016 was crucial to the big right hander’s season.

Realistically, the Cubs are prepared for any issues that their starting rotation may run into this season, whether injuries occur or simple lack of production. The team currently has four former starters in their bullpen between Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Adam Warren and Travis Wood.

If any starter struggles for more than just a couple starts in a row, it is clear that he can and will be replaced. The Cubs simply have too much depth on their roster to allow one guy to continuously struggle, especially in a season with World Series expectations attached to the team.

Simply put, Jason Hammel had no other choice than to start strong this season. His job depends on him pitching well because, if he doesn’t, it’s next man up for the Cubs. While this is the case for every team, Hammel had something to prove after his rough season last year.

At this point, the fact that the Cubs’ fourth starting pitcher has a better ERA than the rest of his rotation teammates is a blessing. While the Cubs were hoping for a successful season from Hammel, the start he has gotten off too has got to have exceeded expectations.

If Hammel continues pitching the way he is, the Cubs rotation could become as much of a strength as the team’s lineup, something no one could have predicted to be true this season.

Next: Trust in the plan--with or without Arrieta

“We want to be the backbone,” Hammel said. “We want to be the foundation. I feel like we’ve done a good job of that so far, and we want to keep it going.”

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