The Chicago Cubs staff has gotten great performances all year from top to bottom. While Jake Arrieta was the star last year, there are TWO new sheriffs in town vying for this year’s NL Cy Young.
Last season, Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta put the team on his shoulders, talked a little smack on Twitter, and propelled the team into the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs had to ride the top three starters in the rotations last year. This season, Jon Lester has more than earned his money while Kyle Hendricks turned into the pitcher many of us hoped for. These two should be the ones to lead us into the playoffs.
This hypothesis makes more sense when you put aside the past success of Jake Arrieta and John Lackey in the postseason. Lester has been very impressive, earning that big offseason deal he signed. That inability to stop baserunners people had talked about?It’s been a non-issue thus far. After a debacle in his July 9 game against the New York Mets, Lester exploded in the second half.
After allowing 8 ER in just 1 1/3 innings against the Mets–a career-worst–Lester has answered the call. In his last 12 starts, the Cubs have gone 11-1, while he’s posted a 9-0 record in that span. He’s struck out 76 in 80 1/2 innings while allowing a 1.46 ERA. Opponents have stolen 15 of 22, but that has a moot point. Lester concerns himself very little with the baserunners.
He’s allowed just one run in two of those contests. This is the pitcher Cubs’ fans thought they were getting in the winter of 2015. A starter that could lead them into the playoffs.
The rise of ‘Cy’le
The rise of Hendricks is a surprise to some, but not to all. He’s shown potential in each of his first two seasons. But it’s been realized in the second half. Hendricks isn’t as impressive as Arrieta. He doesn’t have the velocity. But he has command. And that command is one of the reasons he’s part of this conversation.
Hendricks use of his two changeups forces weak contact. The solid defense behind him turns that poor contact into outs. His BAbip is .244 on the season. And in his last 9 starts, he’s 6-1 with a 1.44 ERA. Opponents have hit just .178 in those 9 games, with a BAbip of .212.
He’s a stark comparison to a pitcher like Arrieta. Hendricks fastball averages under 90 MPH (89.7) and hitters can’t touch him. And his numbers at home are impressive. Enough to make a case for a Game 2 start from Hendricks. He’s been good away from Wrigley, but fantastic at home. He’s 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA to go along with a near no-hitter.
Running out Lester and Hendricks in the first two games at Wrigley Field allows Arrieta to take the mound on the road in Game 3. His numbers are good both at home and on the road, but the Cubs tend to win his away starts. He’s 11-2 away from home, even though his road ERA is a bit higher (3.11 to 2.82).
Lester appears in line to start the first game of the NLDS. The rotation that follows is up in the air. But I know that Maddon already sees what I see. This is the year of Hendricks.