Chicago Cubs: Experienced starting rotation leading the team’s charge

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

It wasn’t the start the Chicago Cubs – or their fans – hoped for. But after a rocky opening stretch, the team is starting to turn the corner in a big way.

After an absolutely abysmal start to the season, the Chicago Cubs seem to be figuring things out on the mound. With a bunch of veterans making up the pitching staff, they know how to pitch and get themselves out of trouble, and that should be good news for the Cubs.

Mainly, Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana have been behind the turnaround. Hamels hasn’t walked a batter since his first start of the season in Texas. His next three starts he has combined to throw 21 innings, striking out 19 and allowing just 13 hits and a trio of runs.

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His latest masterpiece came Wednesday night in Miami, where he pitched seven scoreless and struck out eight batters, in a 6-0 Cubs win. The Cubs have now won seven of their last 10, and much of it is due to pitching.

Quintana struggled for much of last year, by his standards, and he has been just as good, if not better than Hamels in 2019. He is up to 14 scoreless innings over his last two starts after a disastrous first outing against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Against the Pirates, Quintana pitched seven scoreless, giving up just four hits and striking out 11. In his latest start against the Marlins, the southpaw was again masterful, going seven innings, allowing just six hits and striking out seven without walking a batter.

A big reason for Quintana’s turnaround is his strikeout rate. Currently, he’s averaging 12.43 K/9, and at this pace, it would be a clear career-high. Granted, a very small sample size, but improvement is an improvement, especially when you consider what the Cubs gave up to land Q.

The Cubs rotation, over their careers, collectively, have combined to appear in 1,284 games with 1,277 starts. That’s an awful lot of experience. Adding in Tyler Chatwood who is the sixth man, it’s 1,410 starts with 1,442 games pitched.

The point is that these guys know what they’re doing on the mound. They are used to being anchors for their teams. Hamels was the ace on the 2008 World Series champion Phillies. The lefty has also been in a rotation to Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. He’s no stranger to carrying a team – or, for that matter, sharing the spotlight.

Jon Lester has won three World Series rings and was the ace on the 2016 Cubs’ team that won the World Series. Kyle Hendricks started Game 7 of the World Series. Quintana has made over 200 career starts, and Yu Darvish was the ace of a Rangers team that made the playoffs three times and won 90+ games three times.

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These guys get it, and collectively have the most experience of any MLB rotation. They are no strangers to carrying the load, and they may have to again this year if the Cubs want to make a deep October run.