Chicago Cubs: Regression, regression, regression
In 2016, the Cubs starting rotation was practically at the top of the mountain. Kyle Hendricks (who also won the ERA title) and Jon Lester were Cy Young finalists, and the Cubs totaled 16.2 fWAR, the second-best mark in the majors that year.
Subsequent seasons were not as productive, however. The rotation posted a 12.4 fWAR in 2017 and 10.2 fWAR in 2018.
Even though Cubs starters bounced back to accumulate 15.7 fWAR in 2019, they posted an astronomical 4.82 ERA over the course of the last two months. Those numbers also include the sensational performance of Yu Darvish, who was one of the best pitchers in the game after the All-Star Break.
The regression in the rotation is fairly evident. Lester’s peripherals suggested he got lucky in 2018, and he responded by allowing 205 hits in 2019 – most in the NL – while the homer rate rose to 1.4 HR/9.
Jose Quintana had his moments of dominance, but more or less has had the same issues since coming to Chicago: struggles in locating the fastball and a change-up that has been totally ineffective against opposing hitters.
Quintana also remains one of the most inconsistent starters in Chicago’s rotation, posting a 2.02 ERA in August before ballooning to an 11.09 ERA in September. Not to be outdone, Cole Hamels never recovered after suffering an oblique injury just before the All-Star Break.
Then of course, there is the average age of Chicago’s four starters (which, as of now, consists of Darvish, Hendricks, Lester and Quintana) is 32.5 years old.
Unless your name is Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander, it is hard to pitch at a high level as you age. This is especially true for Lester and Quintana, who are so reliant on their fastball command in spite of low velocity.