Chicago Cubs: Breaking down the rotation, who is the readiest for October?
Breaking down and evaluating Jon Lester is very tough. In the postseason, he is 9-7 with a 2.51 ERA in 26 career games with three different teams. With an incredible postseason career, Lester is known as one of the biggest gamers the sport has ever seen. He gets it done in big games, much like Madison Bumgarner. Lester has developed his reputation as an October pitcher, and I think it would be tough to not give him the ball in a playoff series.
Those that disagree with Lester starting a playoff game would point to the regular season stat line. Lester has underperformed in 2019 and has been a liability in recent starts. Over his last five starts, Lester has given up 23 earned runs. Over those five starts, his season ERA went from 3.86 (8/1) to 4.49 (8/23). Lester has earned a 10-9 record and looks to turn it around at the end of the regular season.
Cole Hamels is similar to Lester in the sense of having excellent playoff experience but is struggling in 2019. Hamels, the once World Series MVP, is 7-6 with a 3.41 ERA in his postseason career. He won the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 and Cubs fans hope he can help bring another World Series to Chicago.
2019 has been quiet for Hamels. Not a standout year but nothing to complain about. Hamels is 7-4 with a 3.73 ERA over 120 innings. He missed the month of July with an oblique injury and has not been great since. He returned to the mound at home against the Milwaukee Brewers and threw five scoreless, giving up four hits. Since that performance, Hamels has thrown 16 innings over four starts and has given up 17 earned runs in those starts. Like Lester, We look for a turnaround month of September for Hamels.
Kyle Hendricks has been reliable for the Cubs since his début in 2014. Being able to dominate the top of the strike zone with high spin rates and less velocity, Hendricks brings a nice change of pace to this staff. In the postseason, Hendricks developed a 2.98 ERA with a 2-3 record.
Hendricks has been the Cubs most consistent arm this season, posting a 3.20 ERA with a 9-9 record. His WHIP is just under 1.1 and is walking far fewer batters than in earlier years. Kyle Hendricks is the only Cubs pitcher I see as a definite starter in the 2019 Playoffs. He has both the consistency this year and the postseason success to give the Cubs a great chance of winning.
Jose Quintana’s Postseason experience is very short. He has started twice, recording a win in his first appearance and a loss in his second. He gave up one earned in six and a third innings in the win and eight earned over seven innings in the loss. While the sample size is not big enough to judge, You can see that Quintana possesses the ability to shut down an opponent in a playoff game.
This season, Q has pitched his way to an 11-8 record with a 4.05 ERA over 146 innings. Since August 1, the lefty has been the best pitcher on the Cubs staff. This month he is 3-2, throwing 30 innings and giving up eight runs. Over the past month, Quintana’s ERA has dropped from a 4.40 to a 4.05, showing significant improvement in the late months of the season.
Yu Darvish has pitched in six postseason games, collecting a 2-4 record with a 5.81 ERA. Darvish has yet to pitch for the Cubs in the postseason. With Darvish’s nasty movement, it would be great to see him make an impact for the Cubs on the bump.
2019 has been an up and down year for Yu. He has pitched far better on the road this year and has not recorded more than four earned runs in any away start this season. Darvish is someone who has developed the reputation of collapsing in big situations, but I think we will need him to succeed on the road and to have a chance in these playoffs.