Now watch them WHIP, now watch them KK. Sorry, I could not resist. The Chicago Cubs are having one of their best seasons in franchise history, fueled by off-the-charts starting pitching.
We’ve just scratched the surface of June baseball and the Chicago Cubs are still hot as ever. They currently boast an MLB-best 41-17 record.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most prominent have undeniably been their pitching rotation.
As it stands, the Cubs’ rotation leads all teams in the majors with a staggering 2.30 ERA. They’re almost an entire run ahead of the next best, as the New York Mets’ rotation has a 3.19 ERA.
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Let’s start with the obvious. We all knew Jake Arrieta would do, well…Jake Arrieta things. There was some speculation that he would inevitably see some sort of drop-off this season, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Arrieta’s 1.80 ERA is second in the majors behind only Clayton Kershaw (who’s that guy?).
Next up is the big lefty, Jon Lester. This one has to make Cubs fans particularly happy when you consider his early struggles last season. Lester seems to be much more comfortable in second year wearing Cubbie blue. He’s been absolutely lights out, pitching to the tune of 7-3 with a 2.06 ERA.
According to FanGraphs, the MLB average for strikeouts per nine innings pitched is 8.1. Jon Lester’s K/9 is 8.9. He’s making the ball miss the bat as well as anyone in the league right now.
Newly acquired John Lackey has been everything the Cubs hoped he would be. I wrote last month that Lackey gives the Cubs something they didn’t have in their rotation last season. Grit and depth.
Lackey pitches with an intensity that was missing for the Cubs prior to his arrival. With a 7-2 record and 2.63 ERA, Lackey has exceeded expectations in Chicago. He could arguably be the best 3-spot pitcher in baseball this season.
I don’t need to remind Cubs’ fans what Jason Hammel did in the second half of last season. I’m sure you’re all aware. Hammel pitched well enough in the first half that many considered him a snub from the All-Star game.
But he would not experience the same fortunes in the second half. After suffering a hamstring injury, Hammel was not the same. Night and day in fact. This made Hammel something of a wildcard coming into this season, as no one really knew what to expect.
Much to the approval of the north side faithful, Hammel has been spectacular so far. Hammel has a 7-1 record and a 2.14 ERA. The Cubs’ number four starter is putting up ace-like numbers.
Finally, we arrive at the number five man, Kyle Hendricks. In his second full season, Hendricks has a 4-5 record and a 2.90 ERA.
Hendricks doesn’t have a flamethrower for an arm (his fastball tops out at about 90 mph) and he isn’t going to strike an awful lot of guys out, so how has he been so productive this season? Well, they don’t call him “the Professor” for nothing.
Hendricks is very methodical on the mound, placing his pitches carefully. This has resulted in soft, pitcher-friendly contact, inducing a large number of ground outs.
Every Cubs’ starter has a sub-three ERA. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think these numbers were the product of a 24/7 gamer playing MLB The Show in his basement. But I assure you, these numbers are very much real.
When thinking about where this rotation could end up historically, one past rotation comes to mind. The early 90’s Atlanta Braves. That’s how good this Cubs’ rotation is. They are truly reminiscent of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, and John Smoltz.
Many believed that the Mets would lead the way in pitching this season with their slew of talented young arms, but the Cubs have been wearing the crown to this point.
It’s a long season, and anything could happen, but right now the Cubbie arms are a nightmare for opposing lineups.