Tuesday night’s win over the San Francisco Giants brought a number of interesting pieces of information to light, but the one that is most pertinent to the Chicago Cubs’ future success is the realization that they need a workhorse in their rotation. Entering play today the Chicago Cubs are tied for last in the major league in complete games with zero. Tsuyoshi Wada’s five inning effort on Tuesday would have been the only complete game thrown by a Cubs’ pitcher in 2014 had the Giants not won their appeal of the game. In fact the Cubs have been in the bottom half of the league in complete games in every year since 2005 when they were tied for 7th in the major leagues (8 CG). Additionally, the Cubs have only had two pitchers break the 200-inning mark since Ryan Dempster’s last full season with the team in 2011, Jeff Samardzija & Travis Wood in 2013, and it is highly unlikely that the Cubs will have a 200-inning starter this season (Travis Wood leads the team, 144.1 IP).
Particularly now that Jeff Samardzija is gone, the Cubs need to acquire (via trade or from within the organization) a pitcher that can go out there and throw up six innings every single time. This is not to be confused with the Cubs’ need for an ace. Inning-eaters don’t need to be particularly dominant, they just need to be consistent and healthy. The last time the Cubs’ made it to the post season with out a 200-inning pitcher was back in 1984 and in each playoff appearance since then (five) the team has had at least two 200-inning starters.
- Greg Maddux (238.1)
- Rick Sutcliffe (229.0)
- Mike Bielecki (212.1)
- Kevin Tapani (219.0)
- Mark Clark (213.2),
- Steve Trachsel (208.0)
- Carlos Zambrano (214.0)
- Mark Prior (211.1)
- Kerry Wood (211.0)
- Carlos Zambrano (216.1)
- Ted Lilly (207.0)
- Ryan Dempster (206.2)
- Ted Lilly (204.2)
(stats per Cubs.com)
Having multiple guys in the rotation that can give you 200+ inning helps your ball club in multiple ways. The first and foremost reason is that it helps take stress and innings off the arms in the bullpen. More innings from your starters allows your closer to get an extra day of rest, it gives a rookie more time to prepare for his next outing, and (honestly) it means you have a better pitcher on the mound more often. We’re not trying to knock middle relievers here, but nine times out of ten, those are the least talented pitchers on your staff. But having inning eaters also benefits team moral as well. Ball players thrive when exposed to consistency and a guy going out there and giving his team six inning every fifth day feeds right into that. It also helps keep guys mentally sharp. Most of the time, as soon as your starter exits the game the team knows its time to grind out the victory. Grinding for an inning or two is no problem. Three innings on occasion, sure. But when your team is grinding for 3 or 4 innings, night in and night out, it’s mentally exhausting. And what do mentally exhausted players do? The make errors, they make mental mistakes, the lose. Simple as that.
The bottom line is this: When the Chicago Cubs go out and add pieces to their rotation this off-season they are going to be looking for inning-eaters. It would be nice to add a big-name arm like Jon Lester, sure, but the guys who will help pull this team out of the cellar are the guys who eat innings. In fact, that’s why the Cubs signed Edwin Jackson before the 2013 season; he had six straight season of 31+ starts and was regularly around 200 innings pitched.
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