Chicago Cubs: Rotation firing on all cylinders
Plenty of baseball fans and writers–myself included–wondered whether the Cubs had the rotation depth to be successful.
The arms in the starting staff are aging, with guys like Jon Lester and Jose Quintana seemingly waning in terms of effectiveness. Moreover, there were questions as to who might be the fifth starter.
But, so far, Chicago’s rotation has been the strongest component of the 2020 squad.
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Yu Darvish has since recovered from a tough first start, and Kyle Hendricks figures to remain steady as ever. Tyler Chatwood had a clunker against the Kansas City Royals, but his walk rate (2.4 free passes per nine innings) is solid, and his peripherals look good.
Meanwhile, Lester and Alec Mills look like major assets.
Lester entered Tuesday night’s start in the 94th percentile in terms of average exit velocity and 85th percentile in hard-hit percentage, per Baseball Savant. Despite hardly getting any swings-and-misses, Lester is working the zone and inducing a lot of soft contact.
“Big Jon” was at it again on Tuesday against the Indians, allowing just three hits and one run in six innings of work. He is having a ton of success mixing cutters and changeups to right-handed hitters.
Mills is another soft-tosser who keeps hitters off balance with massive discrepancies in velocity. The 28-year-old ranks in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity and 94th percentile in hard-hit percentage, per Baseball Savant.
Both Lester and Mills seem to have found the formula for getting outs despite a lackluster strikeout rate, and their advanced metrics suggest the results are real.
The 2019 Washington Nationals proved just how important a deep staff can be in making a World Series run. The Cubs will hope to emulate that model throughout the rest of 2020 and into October.