Chicago Cubs: Pitching could be this team’s biggest strength in 2018

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs rode a strong pitching staff to a championship two years ago. Is this year’s team capable of following a similar path to success?

Note: This is Part III of a three-part series compiling a statistical analysis of the National League Central. The previous installments can be found in links below:

Over the last two days, I’ve laid out a statistical analysis of all five National League Central teams. The Chicago Cubs maintained a sizable advantage behind the plate and in the infield. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers’ offseason acquisitions put them over the top in the outfield.

Now, we turn to pitching. In the last week, Chicago added free agent starter Yu Darvish, the final touch of a pitcher-centered offseason for Theo Epstein. Former Cub Jake Arrieta remains unsigned and, thus, will not factor into this evaluation.

One more time, here is how we evaluated players for this analysis.

What you need to know

  • Cumulative stats – such as WAR – are expressed as per game averages, unless otherwise noted. This is important to remember for context throughout the article.
  • Per game averages reflect data covering a four-year sample size from 2014 to 2017 (where applicable; obviously younger players with limited service years allow only for review of however many years they’ve had Major League roster time). Using an expanded time scale helps mitigate some of the risk that comes with only assessing the immediate past. Baseball is a sport of trends and consistency where, as the saying goes, water tends to find its level.
  • Because cumulative stats are broken down to their lowest level (per game average), the rankings herein use a “Play Percentage” estimate for each individual likely to take up a roster spot in 2018. That value was used to determine the approximate number of games played for each of those individuals. Through these means, a fairly representative baseline was created which allowed a very linear evolution from per game average to predicted 2018 season-long results.
  • Key sabermetric statistics such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement), UZR(Ultimate Zone Rating), ISO (“ISOlated power” – measure of extra base hitting tendencies), BsR (Base Running measure of additional runs created), FIP(Fielding Independent Pitching), wOBA (weighted On Base Average) and BABIP(Batting Average on Balls In Play) are leaned on heavily.