The bar was set pretty high in 2016
The Cubs had four pitchers win 15 or more games. Four made 30 or more starts, and John Lackey missed that mark by just one with 29. Kyle Hendricks won the NL ERA title with a 2.13, and none of the starters had an ERA over 3.83 (Jason Hammel). This type of success for a staff over a season is almost unheard of. No trips to the DL for the starters. Four pitchers on the staff had 180+ IP. This is consistency at its finest. But repeating it could be a tricky task.
Maddon is already looking to use a sixth starter this season, for many reasons. He’s a smart enough manager to know that what happened last year would be like catching lightning in a bottle again–highly improbable. So the plan is to rest the starters for an extra day and give pitchers like Montgomery and Anderson a chance to develop a solid routine for a potential postseason run.
For Montgomery, his spot starts last year may have very well helped keep the Cubs starters fresh–fresh enough to claim their first World Series in 108 years. His role with the Cubs moving forward could change, as could Anderson’s depending on how Spring Training goes. But the role this rotation will play in the hopes of the Cubs returning to the World Series will be paramount.