Chicago Cubs Core Is Fine – Their Pitching Isn’t

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras talks with starting pitcher Jon Lester during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras talks with starting pitcher Jon Lester during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs Rotation

In 2016, Lester, Arrieta, and Hendricks had ERAs of 2.44, 3.10, and 2.13 with inning counts of 202 2/3, 197 1/3, and 190.

The Chicago Cubs no longer have those kinds of workhorses. Those are ace workhorses.

Yu Darvish had a 3.98 ERA and led the team with 178 2/3. Hendricks had a 3.46 ERA across 177 innings. The rotation starts to look championship ready if there’s an ace pitching in front of those two, but the Cubs don’t have that guy.

Lester threw 171 2/3 innings of 4.46 ERA/4.26 FIP baseball. He’s going to be 36-years-old this year. Maybe David Ross can work his Lester magic from the dugout, but there’s little reason to trust him to be more than a number 4 starter, tops, for a first division team.

Jose Quintana, 31 in January, has a better chance of returning to his earlier form, but even at his best he never put together a season like those in 2016. His 3.80 FIP from 2019 looks a lot better than the 4.68 ERA, but even at his best Quintana looks like a first division #3.

Those four names are penciled into the Cubs 2020 rotation. Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay could be in the mix, but neither projects for the type of high-quality innings the Cubs need.

Simply: the Cubs don’t have enough pitching. Worse, they’re not real close. Darvish seems to have figured it out, and maybe he’s finally comfortable in Chicago, but he’s the definition of volatile. Hendricks remains a high-end starter, but his ceiling is that of a first division #2. He’s a key player for the 2020 Cubs, but alone, he’s not the answer.

Most likely, the Chicago Cubs enter 2020 with a rotation with something close to 5 mid-rotation starters. That’s enough to compete for the postseason, but it’s not enough to put them among the favorites in the NL.

They need an ace.