Just How Bad is the Cubs' Rotation?
Now that starting pitcher Matt Garza has been scratched from tonight’s game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Cubs have three starting pitchers that have now suffered injuries. Randy Wells managed one start before going on the DL with a forearm strain and Andrew Cashner only took the mound once before landing on the DL with a rotator-cuff strain. James Russell will take Garza’s place tonight at Fenway, which is terrible news for Cubs fans, as Russell has been horrendous during his starts this season. He hasn’t been the only one who’s struggled though, so just how bad has the starting rotation been?
The Cubs have had eight pitchers start games for them so far in 2011: Garza, Wells, Cashner, Russell, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Casey Coleman, and Doug Davis. They have combined for the worst starters’ ERA in the big leagues. Yes, you read that correctly, thirtieth place with an ERA of 5.52. That is 0.69 runs worse than the second worst team, the Houston Astros. Cubs’ starters have thrown the fewest innings of any starting rotation and have a pitiful record of 11-19. Opponents are also hitting the Cubs’ starters at a ridiculous clip of .281. The National League average for starting rotations is an ERA of 4.03 with a batting average against (BAA) of .256. Manager Mike Quade must be going crazy every time he steps into the dugout for a game, knowing he will need his bullpen for a good chunk of the game.
Individually, Garza has been the most effective starting pitcher for Chicago to start the season. In nine starts, he is 2-4 with a 3.72 ERA, 68 strikeouts in 55.2 innings, and a BAA of .259. When the best starting pitcher has an ERA of 3.72, it’s a signal that the team has problems. Zambrano and Dempster, who were supposed to be the top two guys, have thrown the ball like back-of-the-rotation starters. Zambrano is 4-2 but has an ERA of 4.88 and only 41 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. Coleman (2-3, 6.03 ERA), Russell (1-4, 6.26 ERA), and Davis (0-2, 8.31) have all been completely unreliable.
The problem for Quade is the lack of good alternatives. The Cubs have no effective starters to bring up from their minor league system and because of injuries, lackluster pitches have had to keep filling in for Wells, Cashner and now Garza. Hopefully, with another rehab start or two, Wells will be back in Chicago. That might not make the rotation too much better, though, if Garza’s elbow tightness ends up being serious and Coleman or Russell need to keep making starts.