The season is complete and the numbers are final. The impressive 2016 season of the Chicago Cubs is the best pitching performance the team witnessed. Ever.
What a season. Even with all the hype entering Opening Day, the Chicago Cubs were better than advertised this year. The offense scored at a high rate. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant firmly established the “Bryzzo Souvenir Company.” Jon Lester performed up to the contract received. The prospects are now proven.
While the overall success of the team will be dissected by pendants, the pitching staff should be considered the Cubs’ best. Ever.
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Do the math
To be fair, it is hard to compare every season in Cubs’ history due to the 162-game season started in 1962. Innings pitched, runs allowed, and other stats need adjusting. From 1904 to 1961, the average amount of games played was 155, roughly 94% of the current format. As a result, the stats are not even. Keep that in mind.
Regardless, the 556 runs allowed and 3.15 ERA in 2016 are the lowest for 162 game season in franchise history. The 3.43 runs allowed per game (not ERA), is tenth best. Their WHIP (1.11) is 12th all time, and strikeouts per nine claims the top spot; however, these starts are without any adjustment.
So, let’s adjust. The math should not be too hard.
556 x .94 = 522.64 (Total Runs for 155 games)
511 x .94 = 480.34 (Earned runs for 155 games)
1459.66 x .94 = 1372.0804 (Innings pitched for 155 games)
Therefore, the ERA would be 3.15 (still), and 3.37 runs per game. Those stand as 33rd and tenth all-time, respectively. It is worthy to note that 15 seasons in which the ERA was lower less than 155 games were played. There are also 15 seasons with higher ERAs when less games were played than our standard.
Number never lie
But it is more than just these stats. It is the collection of starters that assists this ranking. At the start of the day, three Chicago Cubs starters are in the top ten in ERA. Four have won 15+ games and place top ten in walks-hits-per-inning. When looking at individual stats over the course of Cubs’s history, four of the starting five would rank in the top 50 in at least one statistic.
Four players. One season. All top 50 in team history. No adjusting for the amount of starts or games in a season. Yet, think about those names. Jake Arrieta won the 2015 CY Young, making him the fifth Cub ever. Could Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks do the same this year? Hendricks is young but draws comparisons to Greg Maddux regularly. Lester has two World Series rings, albeit with the Red Sox, but one of the best starting pitchers or our generation. John Lackey would be a number two or three starter on most teams in 2016, yet is number four on the Cubs.
And, Jason Hammel‘s 3.83 ERA ranks 19th in the National League among starters. In other words, the fifth place starter for the Cubs ranks higher than the top starter for at least seven teams in the NL.
This staff proved over and over to be the best in the Majors Leagues in 2016 and, probably, the best the Chicago Cubs staff in history.