OPINION: Cubs’ pitching can’t strike out again

By Zack Jackson, Creative Director

After a stellar 2016 season, the Cubs have seen a steady decline in  pitching performance, the very skill that clinched their first World Series win in more than a century.

The 2016 Cubs led the league with a 3.15  Earned Run Average. Having a solid pitching performance led to success in the regular season and postseason. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman were the driving forces toward the 2016 title.

The biggest roster changes during the past two seasons happened within the pitching department. The Cubs signed Yu Darvish in February 2018 and acquired Cole Hamels from the Texas Rangers last July.

The Cubs signed Darvish to a $126 million six-year contract, but ended up wasting $25 million when he was forced to sit out the rest of the season due to a May injury. Hamels re-signed for $20 million. These expenses limited the organization’s ability to make critical moves during the 2018–2019 offseason.

There were many high-caliber players—such as Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin—on the market during the offseason that the Cubs had to pass on because of their high payroll. This restriction forced the Cubs to stray away from signing any other players, including positions outside of the pitching staff.

If the current staff doesn’t live up to expectations, it could set the whole team back.

In early 2018, the Cubs had some of the hottest bats in the league, ultimately helping them finish in the top 10 for batting. Toward the end of the 2018 season, the Cubs’ batting strengths came to an abrupt halt, making them lean on the already-weak pitching rotation. The rotation came together at the last minute to put the Cubs in the playoffs.

Relief pitching is a staple to any great season, and has always played a major part in the Cubs’ success, from Chapman’s legendary 2016 postseason performance to Wade Davis’ 97 percent save percentage in 2017 that took the Cubs back to the National League Championship Series.

It is essential to teams’ success to have all-star closers. Free agent Craig Kimbrel, who was unsigned at press time, has served as a World Series champion closer. The Cubs currently have Brandon Morrow, who is coming back from an injury and won’t be ready for the start of the season. Cubs pitchers have the talent and ability to be one of the best rotations in the league, but last year four of the five 2019 opening day starters had ERAs above their career averages.

In order for the Cubs to have a successful 2019 season, they will have to capitalize on the big pitching free agents and other pitching talent already on the roster. Cubs pitching has led the team to a World Series once, and with this 2019 team, they have the capability to do so again.