Rozner: Cubs math doesn't work without starting pitching

  • Last season, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta had a Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement rating of 3.4. This season he's at zero, and the Cubs will need a much stronger second-half performance to make the playoffs.

    Last season, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta had a Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement rating of 3.4. This season he's at zero, and the Cubs will need a much stronger second-half performance to make the playoffs. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/11/2017 10:17 PM

Raise your hand if you saw this coming.

Sure, there had to be regression after a historical World Series run, especially within the starting rotation.

 

It's to be expected.

But the Cubs are the first champ to send not a single player off a World Series team to the All-Star Game since it was invented 84 years ago.

Not a single player. That doesn't sound too good.

Kris Bryant is the first MVP since Jimmy Rollins in 2008 to miss the Midsummer Classic.

Wade Davis was the only Cub representing the team and he wasn't here in 2016. And while Davis certainly deserved it, not another player on the roster should have been in Miami this week unless they were looking for a beach.

So, yeah. It's pretty staggering across the board as Joe Maddon spent a lonely few days in Florida.

Aside from the bullpen, which has the fourth-best ERA in baseball and the fourth-best WHIP, there's little else that has gone right the first half of the baseball season.

On a roster filled with great players, there has been much mediocrity and lots of bad.

Bad defense, bad pitching and bad offensive production.

In Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement, Jon Lester posted a 5.3 a year ago, the third best of his career. He's currently below zero.

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Kyle Hendricks was a 5.0 in 2016 and he's at 0.6 while rehabbing a hand injury.

Jake Arrieta was a 3.4 last season and he's at zero.

John Lackey was a 2.5 pitcher a year ago and he's a negative 0.3 this season.

Jason Hammel was a 1.1 for the Cubs in 2016. Among the fifth starters this year, Brett Anderson is a negative 0.8, Mike Montgomery is a 0.5 in a mixed role, and Eddie Butler is at 0.6 in 11 starts.

Not a lot of mystery here.

The starting rotation led all of baseball in just about everything last year and there has been a huge drop off. Maybe most telling is innings pitched, where the Cubs' rotation is 25th in baseball.

They have given up almost a run per inning in the first this year -- the worst in baseball -- after being fourth a year ago, and it's not a lot of fun for the hitters when you're consistently down early.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Cubs are 25th in quality starts after being tied for first in 2016.

Carl Edwards (1.1) and Davis (1.0) are the only pitchers on staff as high as 1 win.

Yes, the Cubs miss Dexter Fowler's 4.2 WAR from 2016. It was good for fourth among Cubs position players, but he didn't fit the long-term plan at that price and at his age (31), and Fowler is at 0.5 this season while battling injuries.

As for the rest of the lineup, Bryant (3.0) posted a 7.7 last year, Anthony Rizzo (2.9) is pretty much on pace with his 5.9 from last year, and Willson Contreras is at 2.1 in 79 games after a 1.8 in 76 games last year.

Addison Russell is at 1.8, not terribly far from his 4.3 pace of 2016, but Ben Zobrist (0.4) has much ground to make up from a 3.9 last year and Javy Baez (1.0) is well off his 3.4 from the title season.

Jason Heyward is at 1.5 after 1.6 a year ago, Albert Almora is at 0.5 after 0.7 last season and Ian Happ has chipped in with a 1.2 in 51 games.

Kyle Schwarber is dead last on the roster with a negative 0.6.

Yikes.

If there's good news, it's that there should be a run coming. It seems absurd to think that so many good players will have a full season at so much less than a reasonable expectation, all at the same time.

That being the case, a few of these guys ought to get hot and that should mean a good month or two in which more than one or two hitters catch fire.

But without some decent starting pitching, you can add it up any way you want and the math just doesn't work.

If the Cubs don't get some quality starts in the second half, nothing else is going to matter all that much.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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