Cubs: Pitching has been a life raft for the team so far this season

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

While the Cubs offense has floundered out of the gate and continues to try and work its way back into form, both the starting rotation and the bullpen have been off to a hot start and kept the team in a good spot going forward.

The pitching has been the main catalyst for the team’s 4-3 record heading into action Saturday and the weak spots have been few and far between for the current collection of Cubs pitchers.

While it’s almost a given that the Cubs’ offense will get better, it’s not necessarily true that the pitching will regress. Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel obviously won’t go the entire year unblemished, and Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams are almost certainly not going to have sub-3.50 ERAs all year. There’s also going to be positive regression from pitchers such as Adbert Alzolay and Jason Adam.

More from Cubbies Crib

While many may be scared off by the starting rotation’s lack of strikeouts, and propensity to draw contact, Jed Hoyer emphasized that this was the intended design for the starters and that the organization wanted the rotation to draw soft contact and let the Cubs’ top-level defensive unit to make plays. To the team’s credit, the plan has gone off without a hitch for the most part.

Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies have so far gotten the soft contact that the pair of soft tossers are accustomed to, but Williams also showed visible improvement in getting weak contact as well. The reason for this uptick in weaker contact could be the increased usage of his curveball. This has been something Tommy Hottovy has worked on with a multitude of pitchers and it seems to be working with the former Pirates right-hander.

The one starter that hasn’t had good results yet is the only exception to the Cubs’ contact-oriented rotation. It was more of the same with Alzolay. The 26-year-old flashed absolutely filthy pitches but got stung multiple times by the long ball. It’s not time to hit the panic button, but if we see the same result over and over, a move to the bullpen may be in order. 

Cubs are liking what they see from Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin

As for the bullpen, Chafin has been an absolute whiff machine and the unit, as a whole, has been rock solid. There’s no debating, though: Kimbrel has been the undisputed cornerstone of the group this year. The embattled closer has been the target of much ridicule from fans throughout his tenure on the northside, but he’s carried his strong finish from 2020 into a resurgent 2021 season. Kimbrel has been virtually unhittable this year, and if the Cubs decide to sell at the deadline, there should be no shortage of suitors for the closer. 

On top of the strong start from the bullpen, the Cubs will be getting several reinforcements as well, with Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck getting closer to their returns. The pair have both been very effective relievers and would be welcome additions to the bullpen. Wieck would likely take Rex Brothers’ spot as the second lefty in the bullpen, and Wick would take Dan Winkler’s spot potentially if Winkler can’t get his command in order.

dark. Next. Lack of a Rizzo extension is an embarrassment to the franchise

While we eagerly wait for the offense to come around to a more bearable level, the pitching has and should continue to be rock solid. The Cubs had a plan for their pitchers this season and they’ve executed it and reaped the benefits as a result. The pitching has kept the team afloat so far this season, and now it’s on the offense to start matching their production.