Chicago Cubs opening rotation shows David Ross means business
When David Ross was hired as the manager of the Chicago Cubs, a new era of Cubs baseball was ushered in.
The opening weekend pitching rotation shows David Ross is ready to get down to business. Kyle Hendricks was announced as the Opening Day starter on Friday for the Chicago Cubs against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood will follow Hendricks. The long time ace over his tenure as a Cub, Jon Lester, won’t start until next week against the Cincinnati Reds. The two best Cubs’ pitchers in 2019 are getting the first two starts in 2020, crazy, right?
Hendricks is one of only four pitchers over the last four years to have an ERA of 3.50 or lower each year; he has earned this chance. The list isn’t bad company to be a part of:
Lester and Ross have a long relationship off the field as well as on the field when Ross was Lester’s catcher in Boston and Chicago. Ross also mentored many of the players on this Cubs team as they were still setting their feet in the Major Leagues. A legitimate concern for Ross as a first time manager could be that he would take his “friends” first rather than do what’s best for the team.
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This is the final year of Lester’s contract with the Cubs, and he has been the guy on Opening Day for four of those five seasons, with the exception being 2016, when Jake Arrieta got the call on the hill. The last time Lester didn’t start Opening Day, the Cubs won the World Series, just saying.
Lester being so far down in the rotation, is the right call. In 2019, he gave up 205 hits and tied his career-high in home runs given up with 26. He did have the highest ERA of his Cubs’ career as well, with 4.46. It was also the first year he missed a start with the Cubs, and the least amount of innings pitched as a Cub.
Lester has a lot of mileage on his arm, and quite simply, he’s not the same pitcher he used to be, which happens to most pitchers as they age. Ross is learning as he goes, but is Lester worse than Chatwood at this point in their careers?
Chatwood, in 2019 had a 4.28 FIP and only gave up eight home runs. Granted, he pitched almost 100 innings less than Lester, with 76 2/3 innings compared to Lester’s 171 1/3. Chatwood did not get hit as hard, though, giving up just 65 hits over his work.
Alec Mills will round out the rotation after Lester, and in a small sample last year, he had a 2,75 ERA, 4.19 FIP, and 42 strikeouts over 36 innings. He has earned a chance to show what he’s got over a more significant sample, albeit a shorter season. With Lester being a free agent after this season, and Jose Quintana out, for the time being, the Cubs need to play some of these younger pitchers and see what they have.