Cubs pitching had a little bit of everything in 2014. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The good with Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, the bad with Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson continued to be ugly.
I would say something about the progress of Jeff Samardzija, but he pitched his way out of my piece.
Here are my thoughts on Jason Hammel, thanks for being a top-10 for the Cubs and helping us get Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Your pitching efforts were greatly appreciated.
Now onto pitchers who will be on the team in 2015.
Possibly the best surprise of the 2014 season was the emergence of Jake Arrieta. The 28-year-old pitcher posted a career best 2.53 ERA along with156.1 innings. What was more impressive was Arrieta’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which was a 2.26. The only other pitcher who had a FIP better than Arrieta… Clayton Kershaw.
Since coming to the Cubs, Arrieta has gone from bust, to potential ace. Much credit can be given to Cubs pitching coach, Chris Bosio, who tweaked Arrieta’s mechanics, including firing out his hip and better transfer of his weight. Arrieta’s ERA with the Cubs, 2.81 ERA, this is much better than his 5.46 ERA with the Baltimore Orioles.
While the Cubs plan to add a top of the line pitcher, Arrieta may be the future number one.
Kyle Hendricks emerged as an everyday starter for the Cubs. The former Texas Ranger prospect was a part of the Ryan Dempster deal in 2012, and has not disappointed. When he pitched, he looked very similar to one former Cub, Greg Maddux. Not saying Hendricks is, but how does that not make you giddy?
If you think Hendricks will be watched closely regarding innings, think again. Between Triple-A and the majors this past season, he threw 183 innings. And do not worry about pitch count either, Hendricks averaged 88.9 pitches per start.
Another “rookie” that showed some success was Tsyuoshi Wada. For those who do not know Wada’s story, he pitched nine seasons in Japan before signing with the Orioles in 2011. He then had Tommy John surgery one he came over and pitched one full season with the Orioles become signing with the Cubs in 2014.
The 33-year-old Japanese lefty posted a 2.81 ERA in July and August and was pitch for pitch with Hendricks when they both broke the Cubs rotation in mid July.
He did struggle in September with a 4.58 ERA in four starts, but finished with a respectable 3.25 ERA in 13 starts. His stuff was not overpowering, but he made a case for a rotation spot for next season. Wada is not a part of the Cubs long term plan, but he could be a solid short term pitcher, but do not be surprised that if he pitches well he gets traded.
After them, there was not much to be pleased about. Travis Wood went from All Star to scrub, and Edwin Jackson has been the worst
pitcher player in baseball. That is a fact. Wood could not locate the way he did in 2013, and I would not be surprised if Wood regrets declining the $28 million dollar deal. The Cubs still have faith in Wood and we will see if he rebounds from his worst year as a pitcher.
The Edwin Jackson signing has been so bad that Theo Epstien said that if he could redo signing Jackson, he would.
What makes his time with the Cubs so baffling is his inability to do anything right. He has trouble in the early in games, can’t throw strikes, difficulty getting ahead of hitters, location issues, you name it. It would be in the best interest for both parties if Jackson was traded. I still believe there is some ability left, just not here.
Last, but not least we have the bullpen.