After the Chicago Cubs pitching staff fizzled toward the end of the first half they have come out with new life after the break. It’s critical that they keep it up in the second half.
After a slumbering and sluggish June and beginning of July, the Chicago Cubs seem to have righted the ship post-All-Star break. Though the team is 6-4 as of July 26, it won all three series it has played in. The fact that two of those three series were against likely playoff teams makes it all the better. But the real key for Chicago will not be how it plays in July, but how it finishes the summer and heads into the fall. For that, it’s worth taking a look at the career second-half numbers of the team’s starting rotation to get a feel for what we can expect.
Thus far in 2016, Kyle Hendricks has once again led the way. In two second-half starts, Hendricks has yet to give up a run and is 2-0. Those victories came against Texas and the New York Mets, the two aforementioned playoff foes.
For his career, Hendricks has essentially no first-half, second-half split. He has collected a far better win-loss record in the second half, but that is statistical noise as he only has 24 career wins to begin with. His other numbers (ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB) are nearly identical. This is great news for the Cubs. Most folks expected Hendricks to fall off at some point since he’s been so good. But perhaps he is just a really good pitcher! There is no evidence to imply a precipitous drop is pending. He’s a young guy who seems to understand how to pitch in his second full season.
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Jason Hammel is also 2-0 in the second half. But the 11-year vet has been disturbingly poor during the second half of seasons in his career. While he is 11 games over .500 in first halves, Hammel is 15 games under .500 in second halves. Not a whole lot stems from pitching record, but his peripheral stats follow suit. His career second-half ERA is over 5.00; his WHIP is 1.45. These are numbers that will make it hard for Chicago to leave him in the rotation if they come to fruition. Last year Hammel almost hit those career splits in the second half after being simply stellar in the first for the Cubs. Hopefully we don’t see a repeat.
John Lackey is the only starter to take a loss thus far in the second half, and he’s already lost twice. His first season as a Cub has still been good though, and his career splits aren’t a real cause for concern. Lackey is comparable half to half. He allows slightly higher slash lines in the second half but pitches slightly deeper into games on average.
Aces Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester round out the rotation as anchors for this staff. Arrieta is a tricky situation because he has been so much better overall since arriving in Chicago compared to his previous stop. Nevertheless, Arrieta has been better in the second half anyway over the course of his career.
Everyone remembers how untouchable Arrieta was in the second half of 2015. His splits were essentially reversed the previous season, but for his career, he has shown slight improvements as the calendar advances late into the summer.
Lester is in a similar spot as his numbers have improved since leaving Fenway Park. Though unlike Arrieta, Lester was still a very good pitcher in his first stop. For his career, Lester carries over that consistency to his first and second-half splits as well. Across the board, there is hardly a glimmer of a difference between how he performs in the first half versus the second, even down to his winning percentage. With this group of five, Chicago should be in pretty good shape overall to continue performing well deep into the fall.