Chicago Cubs: Examining an unusual distribution of innings this season

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Critical depth coming up through the system

I’m defining Triple-A pitching depth as pitchers who have pitched for the Cubs as the Major League Level, but probably won’t be on the postseason roster unless a bunch of injuries force the issue. So far, the Cubs’ Triple-A depth has combined to pitch 139 innings. That’s more than any spot in the starting rotation.

Randy Rosario 32.0
Luke Farrell 31.1
Eddie Butler 17.2 (traded away to the Rangers)
Anthony Bass 15.1
Justin Hancock 12.1
Cory Mazzoni 8.2
Rob Zastryzny 5.2
James Norwood 4.2
Duane Underwood 4.0
Dillon Maples 3.1
Alec Mills 2.0
Jen-Ho Tseng 2.0

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For the most part the Cubs have gotten ridiculously good results from these innings. True Maddon has at times been careful to get favorable match up when he uses these guys. There also about four spot starts in there.

Only one (Underwood’s) start can be considered a positive outing. A lot of these innings have also been low leverage. But when we compare how well this group has done compared to how well Felix Pena and Dylan Floro did last season, its leaps and bounds better than last season’s triple-A depth.

A couple of these guys are even making the case to be included on this year’s postseason roster. Anthony Bass isn’t just putting up a low ERA (2.93). He is also putting great peripherals such as his ground ball rate. He is out of options, so the Cubs can’t send him back to the minors without risking losing him, but they haven’t wanted to send him down. If it wasn’t for a couple of brief stints on the disabled list, Bass would have been on the major league roster the entire time, since he was first called up.

Rosario is a lefty and he has pitched the most innings out of this group. He’s been on the major league roster so long its getting to the point where it almost isn’t fair to think of him as just triple-A pitching depth.

However, his spot in the major leagues is also largely dependent on the health of the starting rotation and the lefties in the bullpen. If Mike Montgomery ever gets moved back into the bullpen, and Brian Duensing and Justin Wilson are there too; Rosario would give the Cubs four lefties in the bullpen. That is a lot even for a 13-man pitching staff. However, remember Zastryzny was included on the NLCS roster in 2016 against the Dodgers because they had so many left-handed batters.