In the case of the Chicago Cubs, it's paid in spades for this upcoming season. Plagued with poor run production, the starting pitching rotation last year for the Cubs did not manifest. Despite the tutelage of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Since removed from the team and coaching with the New York Yankees ( go figure, he's a good coach,) Larry once honed the skill and talent of pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Ryan Dempster, and most notably Carlos Marmol and his control issues. He unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to get a real angle of continuity with recently acquired starter Carlos Silva, who did as notably start the season 8-0 before losing a 1-2 pitchers duel to the White Sox.
|Marmol had 38 saves and .255 ERA in 2010|
That pitching staff is the reason for this entry. To be technical, there are 4 Aces: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, and recently acquired ALCS MVP Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays. All four of these pitchers could headline a major league team. Carlos Zambrano for the past few years has been the Cubs No.1 pitcher until only a few weeks ago, when Mike Quade made a bold decision to start Ryan Dempster winning 52 decisions in the past 7 seasons. Carlos Zambrano won over 90 decisions in his previous seven seasons, but has been struggling with anger issues and disruptions internally within the organization and was flat out getting hammered in tight stretches.
If the starting rotation were based solely from last years statistics, then the order would be as follows: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva, Randy Wells. With James Russell and Sean Marshall the only two left handed pitchers with serious consideration on the outside looking in. They will essentially battle for mop-up time, and be on call in case one of the 5 starters goes through a slump, or to balance out the rotation with both right and left handed pitchers.
As I See It, the starting rotation should go as follows taking into consideration both right and left handed pitchers:
- Carlos Zambrano
- Matt Garza
- Ryan Dempster
- Sean Marshall
- Carlos Silva
- Carlos Zambrano will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Cubs pitchers before he hangs up his jersey. He will also go down as one of the most notorious. But whether he is jousting with Derek Lee in the dugout, giving the "Green Street Hooligan" to the water cooler in the dugout, or screaming with himself in the dugout, he always competes at his highest level no matter the circumstance and demands the same from his team. In his 10 years of service with the Cubs, Carlos has only had 2 losing seasons, pitched a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers and has been a staple ace yearly for the Cubs ballclub. Hands down No. 1 pitcher in Chicago.
- It gets a little more tricky from here, Carlos Silva has the track record for success playing in the National League posting a 18-7 record while playing for teams in the NL. Matt Garza however, has been more productive in his respective league as of recent. Matt is 34-31 in his past 3 years in Tampa, including that 2008 ALCS MVP Award. Matt Garza is bringing proven post-season success to a team that is in desperate need of good successful leadership. The No. 2 spot should suffice for the right hander going into his first campaign on the Cubs mound. How the cards fall after that is up to him and Zambrano's play.
|Look out for Kerry Wood to have a big-time reunion in the Cubs bullpen|
- Ryan Dempster has to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the Chicago Cubs. Beyond his behind the scenes prankster antics and propensity to goof around the ballclub. Ryan's consistent production seems to almost go unnoticed to the masses, since his transitions from the relief role into a full time pitcher. Since becoming the Cubs starter RD has posted a 43-27 record with a 3.49 ERA. And still he slips to the 3 spot, and to that degree he gets more grandeur for the fact that he fully accepts whatever position is given to him. What makes him intangible is his ability to perform no matter where he starts. I look for Dempster to 16-6 in the 3 spot this season. That would be statistically his best record to date.
- Sean Marshall is the affirmative action candidate for the left handed minority of pitchers for the Cubs. Building off a decent end to last season, which included his last start, where he shut out the San Diego Padres 1-0. The next viable candidate would be James Russel, a second year Cub and promising left handed pitcher. My eye tells me that he has some weight issues to overcome, and in turn will help with his power and health. As I See It, the best possible strategy with the lefties is for Riggins and Quade to use Marshall initially for his experience and to get early legs. From that point sporadically mix in Russell, given the matchup to let him get loose for the second half. Depending on performance, if James is giving the team the better chance of advantage against right handed hitters, he finishes the job( See: Net Gain: Antti Niemi. )
- Carlos Silva is the dark horse in this race, losing the fourth spot to Sean Marshall on strategic technicality. Silva started out the season 8-0, looking more like the 2004 version of himself. Plagued with critical health ailments and minor injuries throughout his career, he is unfortunately too risky to rely on as a No. 1 - 3 starter. Barring any significant injuries, Silva could possibly be the best pitcher in the Cubs rotation.
Last season the San Francisco Giants proved that pitching truly can win championships. Tim Lincecum & Co. stopped a hot offensive team in the Texas Rangers with shutouts of 4-0, 3-0. To put it in lamen, Game 5 of the World Series--three batters get a hit--one batter gets a run. Can't name many times that a team with echelon of pitching that would lose in those situations. Carlos Zambrano is not only capable of throwing a shutout, he can make you hitless, throwing a no-no in Miller Park. Matt Garza pitched his no-no in July of '06 against a frequent Cubs' opponent in the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Only time will tell what we will see from Andrew Cashner and James Russel. The remaining touted talent on the defensive side of the field. With enough talent to rival the Yankees and Giants. With chemistry and a the right amount of pressure to win from skipper Quade, the Cubs are capable of skipping a rebuilding tenure and jump right back into winning. The current Cubs roster is capable of 95 wins. It is up to them to play like Chicago deserves for them to.