Chicago Cubs: Starters’ second-half numbers among best in NL

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 16: Starting pitcher Jose Quintana
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 16: Starting pitcher Jose Quintana /

Chicago Cubs’ starters have been nearly flawless since the All-Star Break. A vital ingredient needed for another long October postseason run.

It’s been a role reversal for the Chicago Cubs, and their starting rotation in particular, since the first-half concluded and second-half began.

Just as it seemed like the rotation couldn’t get out of its own way, already serving up more first-inning runs to the opposition versus the entirety of last season, the rotation has quickly realigned to form among the best numbers in the second-half.

Jon Lester, who pitched the worst start of his career that fateful Sunday before the break, has now essentially dominated in his past three. Kyle Hendricks is back from the DL, and in four 1/3 innings, limited the White Sox to one run July 24.

Small sample but very encouraging.

Fresh beginnings

More from Chicago Cubs News

Coinciding with the Cubs sending Miguel Montero out of town, Jake Arrieta has suddenly looked more like his ace-counterpart. In July he’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA. The prior three months he was well north of 4.50.

Arrieta has had success with Willson Contreras, and Contreras has had tremendous success since playing every day (July: .338, 7 HR, 18 RBI).

In the 29 games Montero caught Cubs’ starters, his catcher’s ERA was 6.14. Contreras, in albeit, a much larger sample, 3.97 in 85 games and 70 starts.

Even John Lackey has won his last three outings, also posting a much better July ERA (3.38) than any of the other months in which he was well over 5.00.

Then, of course, there’s the prized acquisition of José Quintana, who is 2-1 in his Cubs-career and has looked every bit the pitcher the Cubs’ brain-trust envisioned when they sent prized prospects to the South Side.

He wasn’t exactly stellar against the Brewers Friday night, but Quintana only allowed two earned runs and limited damage in big spots. That’s what you count on from your top arms.

Coming up aces

All total, the rotation in the second-half has posted league-best type numbers. Entering Saturday’s action, they are 10-1 with a 2.54 ERA. Only the Nationals‘ starters ERA is better (2.50). Cubs’ starters are second in NL (2.01) in limiting walks to opponents.

And the cumulative stat that sums up success is the Cubs are getting length from their starters (85 IP).

Outside of the first game back from the break with Mike Montgomery, and Hendricks who pitched his first outing in over a month, every Cubs starter has gone at least five innings. More often than not, starters are lasting at least six innings.

The rotation leads MLB in BABIP (.210), which is rather telling. In the first-half, their BABIP was .298. Which of course speaks to some of the bad luck starters suffered through before the All-Star Break.

When you think about possible playoff previews, you feel good knowing what the Cubs have, and are capable of.

Good as is?

Regardless if they are able to land Justin Verlander or another starter, and Jed Hoyer hinted that the club might opt for smaller deals, a rotation of Lester, Quintana, Arrieta, and Hendricks is as potentially dangerous as any team has to challenge.

Hendricks’ situation is one story that will be monitored as he looks to recreate more of last season’s success. He’ll get the start against the Brewers Saturday night.

The success to this point is still a small sample size, but on the grander scheme, the team knows what they have. We know it based on last October.

For whatever the reason for the first half struggles, the All-Star Break gave everyone a reset button.

Maybe the horrendous performance against the Pirates was that rock-bottom, look-in-the mirror moment. Considering the timing, they all had a chance to stew over that for a while.

Next: World Series title causes baby boom in Windy City

The acquisition of Quintana represented a confidence-boost. Something the team was looking for.

During the first-half struggles, it was preached that the Chicago Cubs would figure it out and play the way they were capable of. Now that they are, they look to sustain it.