David Ross needs to trust Chicago Cubs starting rotation in 2023
Looking back at the second half of the 2022 season, the Chicago Cubs have quietly had one of the best baseball rotations. As we remember, the starters posted a 2.89 ERA, capping off a surprising 39-31 record post-All-Star break. Further boosted by the emergence of Hayden Wesneski, who is already on fire this spring, It's now time for David Ross to give his starters more leash as we get ready to head into the 2023 campaign.
Picking up where they left off, the Cubs have posted a 3.04 ERA to this point in spring training between Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, Javier Assad, Drew Smyly, and Wesneski. Not to speculate on what a five-man rotation could look like, but It's worth noting that, unfortunately, removing Smyly's five earned runs in just four innings gives the top five performers a collective 1.37 ERA in 19.2 frames so far this spring.
For Ross, it will be about a bit of trust now and not being so quick to call the bullpen for relief. We saw several instances last season where it felt like the starter being taken out was too soon, only to have the next guy come in and make matters worse. Granted, the Cubs rotation early in the 2022 campaign was nothing promising, but now, they have proved themselves and need to learn to deal with the adversity if they will be key pieces of the rotation for years to come.
Chicago Cubs: Is the success of the starting rotation sustainable?
It certainly can be. Every great starting rotation started somewhere. Just because the Cubs didn't sign a bonified ace like Carlos Rodon doesn't mean they don't have one waiting in the wings, but it's premature to say they already have one without seeing more. Still, if you've been watching Cubs games, Justin Steele posted a 0.98 Jake Arrieta-like ERA in the second half last season, and Wesneski's upside looks to be as high as it can get after what we've seen from him.
Adding in two veterans, such as Stroman and Taillon, gives you that elite rotation should Steele and Wesneski continue impressing the way they have. For example, however, I want to see those situations where if Wesneski allows a couple of baserunners in the 5th inning, Ross lets him figure it out instead of bringing in a reliever who inherits those runners if his pitch count is still low enough for him to get through another inning after that.
If the Cubs wish to compete in 2023, their strength must come from its rotation. Last year, the Cubs' offense ranked 22nd in the league in runs per game but still managed to be eight games above the .500 mark in the second half because of the fantastic showing from its pitching. With two good game-callers behind the plate in Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart, including an elite up-the-middle defense in Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, and Cody Bellinger, there's no reason to think the Cubs can't, at the very least, be a darkhorse team for the postseason in 2023.