Recently, I wrote an article about the struggles of Chicago Cubs pitching this season. Continuing that topic, let’s take a look at a stat that really is not looked at enough these days, quality starts.
A quality start is where a starting pitcher pitches at least six innings and allows three earned runs or fewer. A quality start is not based on the high strikeout numbers like some people may think. With a week before the All-Star Break, the Cubs rank 29th out of 30 big league teams in quality starts. As of July 14, they are at 18, one ahead of the Pirates, who have 17 to their credit this year.
Quality starts are incredibly important to have. Every season, the top teams tend to have the most quality starts. As there are outliers, like the 2021 World Series champions Atlanta Braves, who ranked in the bottom quarter or so of the league, however in their postseason run, they had the most with four. Quality starts are incredibly necessary for a successful baseball team, even in today’s bullpen-driven age.
As of now, the Cubs do not have anyone over four quality starts, with Kyle Hendricks and Justin Steele both at four. When looking at the Cubs pitching statistics, not only is the ERA and WHIP a disappointment, but the lack of quality starts is terrible. However, there is one upside in an otherwise disappointing situation: Steele and his four quality starts.
Cubs look like they have a key piece in left-hander Justin Steele
Even though Steele is only at four quality starts, which is the 84th most in the majors, it is promising to see a young pitcher begin to take control of games. Since a sit-down with Jon Lester earlier in the year, the left-hander has been much improved. Since May 31, Steele carries a 3.23 ERA and an opponent average of just .235 in eight starts.
As a diehard Cubs fan, I do not like to constantly criticize the team. However, when it comes to looking at what the team needs to improve on, I thoroughly enjoy it. Other than the shortened 2020 season, Chicago has had one pitcher since 2016 in the top 10 in quality starts – and that was Lester with 26 in 2016.
Solely relying on the offense does not win games, so as much as we have all been waiting for the Cubs offense to explode consistently, we need to have solid and consistent pitching first.