Chicago Cubs starting pitching off to hot start in Spring Training
Through the first week of spring training games, the Chicago Cubs’ nameable starting pitchers have seemingly picked up where they left off in the second half of the 2022 campaign. Most notably, recording a team no-hitter last night against the San Diego Padres. For a quick memory spark, we remember the starters accumulating a 2.89 ERA post-All-Star break last season. In Spring Training, that number sits at 2.81 among starters, good for 5th in the National League. Let’s look at a breakdown individually:
-Marcus Stroman 4.1 IP - 1 ER
-Javier Assad 4.0 IP - 0 ER
-Hayden Wesneski 2.0 IP - 0 ER
-Justin Steele 2.0 IP - 0 ER
-Jameson Taillon 1.2 IP - 2 ER
-Drew Smyly 2.0 IP - 2 ER
Granted, it’s early in spring training, and one poor start from somebody can still drastically inflate these numbers. Nevertheless, It’s a trend that has continued from a respectable sample size to cap off the season just five months ago.
Moving forward, these are the things that must happen for the Cubs to succeed in the 2023 season. In fact, there are multiple areas where they will have to overperform and see go right for a team currently projected for a 77.5-win total. None, however, are more imperative than starting pitching to excel at a high level. The potential emergence of Hayden Wesneski could be a true needle-move for the Cubs and anyone else from a vastly improved Cubs farm system stepping up is critical.
After the Cubs lost Willson Contreras to free agency this past winter, it will be interesting to see how much blame can be put on his game-calling ability compared to Yan Gomes and newcomer Tucker Barnhart. The offensive prowess of Contreras will be sorely missed, but if Cubs pitching can maintain at least being in the better half of the National League, it will be more than a fair trade-off.
With a regular spring training, unlike last year, the hope is that Cubs pitchers can be fully stretched out once the season starts. You’d love to see everybody healthy and ready for at least a 90-pitch workload right out of the gate. There is a general sense that Chicago pitching is still being slept on due to the lack of a well-known ace-caliber starter. If they continue at this pace, it will only be a matter of time before the Cubs compete for the NL Central Division championship.