As I did the projections for the Cubs starting rotation, I realized I had a lot of questions and uncertainty about performance. Will Jeff Samardzija continue the progress he made last year? Will Matt Garza or Scott Baker stay healthy enough to be of value to the Cubs either in their rotation or the trade market? What will the rotation look like by the end of the year? I tried researching as much as I could before I came to any conclusions. Here are my projections:
First, Jeff Samardzija pitched better in the second half of the season last year than he did in the first. He had a lower WHIP, lower BB/9, and higher K/9. Since the Cubs were looking hideous by that point in the season last year, I had completely missed this. I’m hoping this was more Samardzija progressing and less the warmer temperatures during that part of the season. I’m projecting him to continue to progress and solidify his spot as a front-end starter.
When I began thinking about this post, I figured Matt Garza was a total wild card. I had no idea what the Cubs would get out of him this year coming back from his elbow injury. Then, Garza strained his lat muscle and will start the season on the disabled list. This is a big disappointment for the Cubs, as Garza was likely to be traded sometime this season. Although I still believe that will happen, his value has definitely been diminished.
Unlike Matt Garza, Scott Baker was already expected to start the season slowly after not pitching at all since 2011. He had problems with his flexor tendon and then eventually needed Tommy John surgery with the Twins. I believe he’ll start the season on the DL and Scott Feldman will pitch about 110 innings. If all goes well, Baker will pitch well also and yield the Cubs some more prospects in a midseason trade.
The projection for Edwin Jackson was easy for me because he is such a consistent pitcher. In the past five years, he’s pitched between 183-209 innings, and his WHIP has been between 1.22 and 1.51. I see him being the most reliable starter for the Cubs this year with little change from his normal statistics.
Overall, Cub fans must remember that Samardzija may be the only pitcher in the Cubs rotation when they are contenders. Two or three of the starters could possibly be on another team by the end of the year. It’s possible one of the young pitchers will seize an opportunity to surprise everyone as a starter and be this year’s Samardzija. But, don’t hold your breath.