Winning four out of seven games against teams that can match your talent-level across the diamond is hard enough. Winning those games without reliable starting pitching is nearly impossible.
The Cubs are not just enduring whatever notion of a World Series hangover that fans and experts love to talk about, they’re also going through what simply seems like a deficit in talent at the starting pitcher position.
It’s an argument that was worn out before the Cubs even took home the title last year, that drafting only positional players in the high rounds would eventually create a void on the Major League roster. Regardless of the fact that this potential pain point was proven not-so-painful while the Cubs won their first World Series in a billion years last season, this void does exist.
That doesn’t mean Theo and staff should be criticized for not drafting pitchers, especially considering their record-breaking starting staff from a season ago was mostly a collection of spare parts from other organizations.
But spare parts eventually need to be replaced.
The same starting pitching depth the Cubs could rely on last season (Arrieta, Lackey, Hendricks) has either been hurt or downright bad.
This team can’t survive in the postseason with a John Lackey that’s seeing 22% of his fly balls leave the park, a number that’s second-highest among starters, falling slightly behind Tyler Chatwood who pitches in the mountains.
The Cubs can’t win while rolling out this version of Jake Arrieta, who has seen his ground ball rate plummet to 45% which is the lowest it’s been since 2011 when he was bad with the Orioles. His fly balls are also leaving the park more frequently, but that can be said with virtually every pitcher since the MLB has decided to inject steroids into the baseballs now instead of the players.
Kyle Hendricks should be coming back from the DL after the all star break, but how much can this team rely on a pitcher coming back from a tendonitis injury that can flare up at any moment? Not to mention Hendricks wasn’t pitching like the Cy Young-caliber starter we saw last season before he was put on the DL a little less than a month ago.
Pitching is the most important factor of success in the playoffs and it’s been proven time and again that you simply can’t win four out of seven without your pitching keeping the team in ballgames. The Cubs had more starting depth than the Indians, which is why they eventually won the World Series after facing Corey Kluber for the third time in two weeks.
Cleveland taught us that one starter isn’t good enough, and now the Cubs are facing a similar problem as Jon Lester may be the only truly reliable playoff starter on the roster, which should result in some big changes to the Cubs’ starting rotation by the time the 2017 trade deadline has surpassed.