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Cubs Starting Pitching Check-In

Closeup of Chicago Cubs logo on team website

At the beginning of the season, I ranked the expected starting rotations of the National League Central teams by projected fWAR. The Cubs’ potential six-man rotation was expected to be worth 8.5 fWAR, placing third in the division. As we head into the All-Star break, I checked in on the Northsiders’ starting pitching performance. Here is a breakdown compared to the entire league.

Cubs Starting Pitching at a Glance:

Players Used: 13

Record: 17-36 (29th in total victories)

ERA: 4.85 (25th)

FIP: 4.60 (28th)

IP: 423.0 (29th)

K9: 7.74 (19th)

BB9: 3.30 (21st)

fWAR: 3.2 (27th)

Division Rankings by fWAR:

  1. Milwaukee – 7.5 (9th in MLB)
  2. Cincinnati – 4.6 (21st in MLB)
  3. Pittsburgh – 4.3 (24th in MLB)
  4. St. Louis – 3.8 (25th in MLB)
  5. Chicago – 3.2 (27th in MLB)

The Cubs are one of the five worst teams in the league by starter fWAR. Three out of four division rivals also rank in the bottom ten, so it won’t take much to climb out of the basement. However, a sustained focus on development will be required to challenge Milwaukee for future division crowns.

When comparing the projected six-man rotation to the actual stats, the Cubs’ rotation appears to be on target to reach its pre-season projection. The most valuable starters in terms of fWAR are in fact the players I selected back in April, but not in the order anticipated by the baseball brains. Here are the projections from earlier this year (alphabetical order):

Kyle Hendricks 4.20 4.41 1.9
Wade Miley 4.97 5.09 2.0
Drew Smyly 4.74 4.67 1.0
Justin Steele 4.58 4.72 0.5
Marcus Stroman 3.60 3.78 3.0
Keegan Thompson 4.97 5.09 0.1
2021 TOTAL: 2.6

Here is the same players’ performance so far, ranked by fWAR:

Justin Steele 4.15 3.40 1.7
Marcus Stroman 4.69 3.84 0.8
Keegan Thompson 4.39 4.12 0.7
Wade Miley 2.84 3.27 0.5
Kyle Hendricks 4.80 4.82 0.4
Drew Smyly 4.22 4.76 0.3
TOTAL: 4.4

Steele and Thompson have vastly exceeded expectations, but Stroman is underperforming. Hendricks’ numbers are in line with last season’s, the worst of his career.

After dropping three out of four games to the New York Mets, the Cubs’ season will resume versus the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, July 22. Steele (3-6, 4.15 ERA in 17 starts) will face Kyle Gibson (5-3, 4.35 ERA in 18 starts).