This season was an interesting one for the Chicago Cubs pitching staff. So, needless to say, their holiday wish list likely includes some needs, not wants.
As you know by now, I’m a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and the holiday season. When I was growing up, we were fortunate that my mom and dad worked consistently and so we never had Christmas where there weren’t any gifts under the tree. However, when the steel mills closed around the Chicago suburbs, many families were not that fortunate. Gifts under the tree turned to deeds and thoughts instead of presents bought at Sears or JCPenney’s.
These “lean” holidays sort of remind me of what the Chicago Cubs pitching staff might be facing this season. With the prospect of Bryce Harper dollars going out the door, the Cubs pitching staff may be relying on good deeds and thoughts from Santa this year. How will Santa (or Theo Epstein) reward the staff for its efforts this season?
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All we’re really looking for is health
The first thing all the Cubs pitchers have on their Christmas wish list is simple and something we all often take for granted: health.
Let’s face it, the Cubs 2018 season with a healthy Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow would have been a different team entirely. We could have been going into 2019 worried about World Series hangover again if injuries were not an issue last season. The Cubs have a good stable of starters and bullpen pitchers but need to keep them healthy through the long season.
The best gift Darvish himself could get from Santa is a full campaign in which he stays healthy and pitches to his ability. There is no Cubs pitcher under the microscope more than the right-hander. Darvish is hoping Santa can give him a dose of elf magic dust that will restore his career-best numbers. In 2013, Darvish was named an All-Star, finished as the American League Cy Young runner-up and allowed just 6.2 hits per nine.
Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana are asking Santa for a little magic dust themselves, as they would love to get back to their collective 2016 performance. While the rotation, as a whole, had a pretty good 2018, strikeouts were down across the board for the Cubs hurlers. More strikeouts and fewer walks are at the top of their wish list.
The bullpen got its gift from the big man in red last Christmas and finished the season with an MLB-leading 3.35 ERA. They accomplished this despite the walks given up by Carl Edwards Jr. or missing their closer, Brandon Morrow, from mid-July on.
If Santa was giving out the gift of youth, Morrow, 34, Pedro Strop, 33, and Steve Cishek, 32, would all be in line for that special present, as the bullpen gets a little old this year. Strop is coming off his best ERA since 2012 and is only asking Santa for a more exotic wardrobe to wear en route to games.
With Santa’s help, chances are the Cubs pitching in the rotation and the bullpen will be better than last year in 2019. The team is lucky because Santa loves pitchers. Most people don’t know it but Santa did a little pitching in his day; his specialty? A wicked sliding snowball.