Despite dmick's and my desire to go out and sign a Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb-caliber starting pitcher to round out the starting rotation (for which there are compelling reasons for and against), the rotation is pretty much set 1 through 5 for the upcoming 2018 season. The Cubs' signing of Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow also seems to fill the bullpen. Breaking with longstanding OV tradition, let's take a look at those pitchers now, and not a month from now when our next post is due.
2017: 147.2 IP, 4.94 FIP, 4.27 xFIP, 6.8% K-BB
Steamer 2018: 137 IP, 4.23 FIP
Chatwood was one of the very first pitchers off the board when free agency started. His spin rate is so elite that it elevated to meme status. Unfortunately for Tyler and the Cubs, spin rate isn't obviously correlative with results – if they were, Chatwood would have displayed much better results in his career. Chatwood has never pitched 160 innings or more in a season. All of that said, Chatwood is a Coors Field survivor, and his numbers (as with most pitchers) look much better if you take away the home pitching stats. One last thing to note about Chatwood is that he is unnaturally ill-suited to start given his through-order stats. Pitchers are usually worse every time they go through the order, but Chatwood has those splits to a pretty extreme degree. In a perfect world, Chatwood would have Mike Montgomery's role. Alas, that's Mike Montgomery's role.
2017: 186.2 IP, 3.83 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 19.7 K-BB%
Steamer: 173 IP, 3.52 FIP
Yu Darvish is pretty great. It's not completely fair to wipe away his World Series performance, but I'm willing to overlook it given the evidence that he was tipping his pitches (one of the overlooked storylines this offseason is the push to try to eliminate sign stealing in baseball). One sort of sad stat is that Jake Arrieta had more fWAR in 2015 then Darvish had in 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined. That gives you a sense of the sort of injury problems Darvish has dealt with (and how freaking awesome Jake Arrieta was that year). One other interesting stat is that Darvish is an extreme flyball (and line drive) pitcher. Considering how amazing the Cubs' infield defense is, seems like a little bit of a waste.
2017: 44.2 IP, 3.34 FIP, 3.66 xFIP, 15.5 K-BB%
Steamer: 65 IP, 4.01 FIP
Steve Cishek really outpitched his peripherals last year. That 3.34 FIP you see? Translated to a 2.01 ERA. The lesson of this post is that while ERA is slightly misleading for starters (because of sequencing more than anything else, but also leaving inherited runners), it's really misleading for relievers (because of sequencing AND inherited runners both coming in and going out). The narrative around Cishek is that he's in the prime of his career and ready to step into the closer's role the first time Morrow blows a save. The reality is that Cishek is a very good reliever starting the gentle downslope of his career. Cishek is definitely a capable 3rd-best arm out of the pen for a playoff team, which is the role he'll end up serving on this team should Slenderman get back a bit of his mojo.
2017: 43.2 IP, 1.55 FIP, 2.94 xFIP, 24.1% K-BB
Steamer: 65 IP, 3.64 FIP
Brandon Morrow is going to close for the 2018 Cubs. Morrow has had a pretty interesting career – he broke into the league as a reliever, eventually made himself into a pretty good starter (I coveted him in 2010 and 2011), and injuries forced him back into the bullpen the last 4 years. He's re-discovered his ability to strike out a bunch of people and hardly ever gives out free passes. In 2018, he gave up a grand total of 0 HR in the regular season (and a grand total of 3 HR in the postseason). He pitched every single game of the 2017 World Series (with varying degrees of effectiveness). I worry that Morrow isn't going to do well with repeated uses, so I wouldn't at all be opposed to having 2 closers (the dreaded "closer by committee"). I also wonder if he'll be healthy for both seasons of his 2/$21 contract. I also wonder if Dillon Maples won't end up closing before the year is over, so take my wonders with a big degree of salt.
All in all, these 4 players will definitely play a big role (barring injury) for the 2018 Cubs. A #2 and #5 starter, a 7th inning and a 9th inning guy. $53 million has been invested in these 4 players in 2018, so it's pretty important that there be a return on this investment.
Current Pitching Staff
Carl Edwards, Jr.
Brian Duensing (edit: he lives)
Oscar De La Cruz