Chicago Cubs: Wasn’t Jim Hickey supposed to fix these pitching issues?

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

After bringing in one of the most respected pitching coaches in all of baseball, the Chicago Cubs starting rotation continues to fail to live up to expectations.

The Chicago Cubs fired pitching coach Chris Bosio last October reportedly because of bullpen control issues, an MLB worst walk rate and the regression of starter Jake Arrieta.  Maddon hired Jim Hickey, his former hand from Tampa Bay, in the hope that he could right the ship of state.

However, a rough first half by most of the starters hasn’t been what the Cubs front office, Maddon or fans expected.  In fact, it’s been darn ugly.  So forty years after The Police sent out a message in a bottle, Theo is sending out his own SOS.  Not in a search for love, but rather for starting pitching.

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Most notably Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish have spectacularly bad the first half of the 2018 season.  Chatwood’s metrics are the worst of his career.  His WHIP of 1.785 is a career worst, his ERA (5.01) and FIP (5.06) are the worst since 2012, his BB/9 is nearly double his next worst year.  His WAR is zero.  No one thought Chatwood would star in the rotation but right now he’s a pitching black hole.

Yu Darvish in some ways is worse only because his past performance contrasts so starkly with this year.  His 1.425 WHIP is far worse than 1.261 he posted his third year in Texas and worse still than career-best 1.073 the year before.  His ERA (4.95) and FIP (4.83) are career worsts as well.   And he is still on the DL, his second stint this year with no real date of return in sight.

Jose Quintana has struggled as well and is looking at his worst season.  His WHIP (1.372), ERA (3.96), and FIP (4.63) are all career-highs by far.  Nonetheless, Quintana has been able to pitch around some these problems and his numbers are trending in the right direction at last.

Perhaps the most disappointing has been Kyle Hendricks.  While his numbers are far more respectable than those of Chatwood, Darvish, and Quintana, they are also a far cry from what we’ve come to expect.  The disappointment from my point of view is not that his numbers are terrible.

It’s that now with Arrieta departed there was hope Kyle would rise to become a true number two starter.  That can still happen, and it is likely it will as his numbers, like Quintana’s, are trending in the right direction.  Most of Kyle’s situation in terms of his numbers can be found in three games he clanked in June where gave up a combined fifteen runs in 13 1/3 innings.

Sending out an SOS

All this has led the Theo in search of pitching at the trade deadline.  I’m sure that is not what he expected to be doing when they signed Darvish and Chatwood.  So, do they get a top-drawer front-line starter like a Jacob deGrom or aim lower for a J.A. Happ or James Shields that would cost far less?  It’s anyone’s guess and the rumor mill is churning overtime.

Next: Could the Cubs flip Caratini for starting pitching?

But one person stands at the center of this and that is pitching coach Jim Hickey.  Can he fix what ails this staff?  If he can then he might be the best pitching coach the Cubs ever had. If he can’t there is going to be some explaining to do at the end of this season.