Chicago Cubs: Pitching staff quickly gets things turned around

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

To start the season the Chicago Cubs were a mess, more specifically their pitching as a whole was a disaster. But since April 8, the Cubs pitching staff has turned it around and been one of the best in all of baseball.

The Chicago Cubs got off to perhaps the worst start imaginable this season. They started the season 2-7 and lost each of their first three series on the road. Following their series loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on April 7, the Cubs were already five and a half games out of first place.

But unlike last season, where the Cubs hitting let them down, the Cubs pitching was costing them games they should have won. I mean, in two of those Cubs losses they scored 10 runs and still didn’t come away with a win. For the first two weeks of the season, it seemed like either the starter didn’t have it or ultimately the bullpen wasn’t able to hold onto a lead and close out the game.

In the first nine games of the season, the Cubs were undoubtedly the worst pitching staff in the whole league. As a group, they posted a 7.51 ERA which was the worst in all of baseball by nearly a full run. They allowed 62 earned runs while allowing 20 home runs, which was the fourth most in the league.

The Cubs pitching staff showed no control whatsoever, walking everything in sight, a league-high 53 batters. That resulted in a ton of traffic on the bases as the Cubs also held a league-worst 1.999 WHIP.

The horrible start had fans calling for changes to be made. Both Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel were free agents, was it time to sign them at whatever cost? Fingers were being pointed at both Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, did the Cubs pitchers need a new voice already? The poor start and all the questions led to Theo Epstein taking a stand on April 6th and ultimately taking and shouldering the blame for the Cubs.

"“There’s always a search for scapegoats when you get off to a tough start,” Epstein said in an interview with NBC Sports. “[Pitching coach] Tommy Hottovy is not the problem. He’s a big part of the solution. [Chairman] Tom Ricketts is not the problem. It’s not a resource issue. If people have a problem with the allocation of resources, then that’s me. It has been ever since I got here. It’s been a lot of good and some bad."

Things started to click on the mound

So what happened following Epstein’s comments? Well for whatever reason, the Cubs completely flipped the script and started pitching like the best team in baseball. From April 8th to May 5th, the Cubs posted a 2.48 ERA, going from worst to first. That’s the best ERA in all of baseball by nearly a whole run.

To show just how good the pitching staff was in those 22 games, they only allowed 56 earned runs. That’s less than the 62 earned runs they allowed in the first nine games of their season. To put in even more perspective, in their last 22 games the Baltimore Orioles have allowed 136 runs.

How did they do it? The simple answer is they stopped walking so many batters. Over the last 22 games, the Cubs ended up cutting their BB/9 rate in half, dropping it from 6.4 to 3.2. They also have surrendered just 17 home runs which is the fewest of any team over that span.

Their performance has really been outstanding considering how they started the year. They didn’t even go out and make any moves, everyone just took their game to another level, and it all began with the starting pitching.