Once More Unto The Breach – The Ivy Drip’s Season Preview: Starting Rotation
Well, I guess I’d better do some kind of season preview here. While this Cubs season probably won’t be very interesting until July, that doesn’t mean they won’t be playing for the first three months. So let’s go unit by unit here and start with the most important component and the one probably going to take the biggest hit, and that’s the starting rotation.
Jeff Samardzija – Shame he’ll be traded just as soon as I could comfortably spell his name. Anyway, this is going to be the main storyline until Shark either signs up or ships out (likely the latter). Samardzija nor his agent is no dummy. Even for a middle of the rotation starter (which Shark probably is) on the open market can net himself $12-$15 million per year. Fuck, Edwin Jackson got that. So there’s not much motive to take the Cubs’ offers of an extension that probably aren’t that high. Which means he’s almost certainly going to be traded. If Matt Garza netted C.J. Edwards and Mike Olt, I would guess that Shark could get you back one of those and a lesser prospect. Still, if Samardzija is a #3 starter, some wouldn’t be too thrilled if he was punted for someone who projects to be the same thing. To me that’s minimum, because whoever comes back will be younger and cheaper.
You know the drill with Shark. Some days he’ll look utterly dominant, and the others he’ll try and throw his fastball and splitter through the Cubby Bear to try and get out of trouble. He’ll walk just a tad too many guys, throw a tad too many pitches to strike out others, and get rocked in the 6th a lot. Then he’ll be gone.
Edwin Jackson – You’ll hear a lot of people say that Jackson’s awful 2013 was partially the result of bad luck. The BABIP was high, he threw more groundballs than he ever had but they just found holes, and his FIP was much lower than his actual ERA. I’m not convinced. Jackson still only throws a fastball and slider which means the more batters see him the easier it gets. His average velocity has dipped the past two years, and there’s no reason to think that’ll stop. He doesn’t have enough of an arsenal to overcome that. And the improved groundball/flyball ratio might have only been a one-off. Maybe he can figure out and utilize a cutter more than he has before, and that’s the only hope. I still think he’d make an excellent closer with his hard stuff, and that would keep his fastball fresh. But they didn’t pay him all that money for that, so we can look forward to more infuriating Jackson outings. Fun.
Jason Hammel – Ah yes, the latest scoop-and-toss for the Cubs. Hammel looks likely for the Feldman-Malholm treatment, a rehab project to be dealt. It might work. He was bad last year but threw up decent seasons in hitters’ paradises Camden Yards and Coors Field. He doesn’t strike that many people out, he walks slightly more batters than he should for someone who doesn’t strike anyone out, so he’ll have to keep the flyballs down. But this is Bosio’s specialty. Don’t get too attached, and be happy when his trade opens a spot for Kyle Hendricks.
Travis Wood – I want to believe in Travis Wood. I’m almost there. He had a pretty stupid low BABIP last year. But then he had a pretty stupid low BABIP in the year before that when he was good. His strikeout- and walk-rate didn’t really change. Neither did his groundball rate. The only thing that jumps out you is the flyballs he gave up stopped landing in someone’s beer in the bleachers. His HR/FB% dropped by 50% and more in line with his career average. He also found a slider and cutter more effective. I think Wood’s 2013 is closer to the truth of what he is than his 2012. I guess that’s enough.
Jake Arrieta – Yet another guy who’ll have one outing where he limits the Dodgers to one hit over seven while striking out 12 and the very next start will have thrown 101 pitches in the 4th while walking six Padres or something. The stuff is there. The control is not. And at the age of 27 and coming off an injury, I wouldn’t expect that to change much.
Chris Rusin – If he makes the rotation I guess I’ll be satisfied that the Cubs have the soft-tossing lefty that usually shuts them out for seven innings.
Carlos Villanueva – Mustache. Innings. Not much else after April when it gets warm and contact goes far. Better in September when everyone is gagging for amphetamines.