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February 2018

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Darvish Completes A Tantalizing Rotation

Written by , Posted in General

Now that Yu Darvish has signed what I believe to be a pretty acceptable “six year” contract, the Cubs have filled out their five-man rotation.

The talk is that there are opt-outs in the Darvish contract after year’s two and three which is ok with me. Opponents of the opt-out clause will argue that an opt-out only benefits the player. Either the player is doing well and leaves early to get more money or doesn’t produce and stays and collects unearned salary. In the case of Darvish, I would argue that there is no way he signs for 6 years at $21M/yr without the opt-out clause, so there is no contract equity that the Cubs would be losing if he leaves, or re-does his contract, after the second year. To get Darvish to sign just a two-year contract would have probably cost a team $35M per year.

Anyway, I love the signing and the potential of the rotation had me doing a little research to see if this is the best rotation the Cubs have ever put together. While attempting to do that at baseball-reference.com, I found that it was a little tough to get the exact information that I wanted and also found some things that interested me a bit more so I changed the focus of this post. I will say that I believe this will be the best 1-5 rotation the Cubs have ever had.

For this article, I am using use b-WAR as my proctor for how good a pitcher’s season was. I realize that WAR isn’t the end all answer for how good a season a player has, but it suffices for my purposes.

While starting the research, I came across the list of the five pitchers to have started at least ten games in a season for ten seasons with the Cubs (since 1900) and I can honestly say I would have probably only guessed two of them correctly. Take a minute and see how many you can guess.

Don’t cheat, make a guess.

Here they are in order of number of ten start seasons they had with the tie-breaker being their highest career WAR year.

  1. Charlie Root (1926-1941): Charlie had 13 seasons making at least ten starts for the Cubs. His best season by WAR was his age 27 season when he produced a WAR of 5.2. Root pitched fairly well up until around age 40.
  2. Rick Reuschel (1972-1984): “Big Daddy” had 11 season with at least ten starts. He also put up a surprisingly high WAR of 9.4 during his age 28 season. Reuschel also was successful until his late 30’s including a 6.2 WAR season at age 36.
  3. Ferguson Jenkins (1966-1973, 1982-1983): Fergie only had ten season with ten starts but his peak was unmatched by any of the other four pitchers in the list. Fergie produced a 10.3 WAR during his age 28 season. He also pitched well into his mid and late 30’s as he had a 5.5 WAR in his age 35 season.
  4. Carlos Zambrano (2001-2011): I was surprised that Carlos had ten years of service but here he is on the list. His star burned bright at the youngest age as he produced his peak WAR of 6.7 during his age 23 season.
  5. Bob Rush (1948-1957): Sadly I didn’t know much about Mr. Rush but he also put together ten seasons with at least ten starts for the Cubs and peaked with a 5.5 WAR during his age 29 season.

Maybe the history doesn’t interest you. How about pondering how good the current rotation was last year? I’ll tell you in advance that the numbers in aggregate aren’t very impressive. As a unit, the starters only produced a 12.7 WAR last year with the breakdown as follows:

I was shocked that Lester was less than a 1 WAR last year. I feel like I saw more than that from him but perhaps that was still memories of 2016. If you look at the current staff with 2016 results, it’s a lot more impressive with a cumulative WAR of 21.5.

  • Jon Lester 5.3
  • Jose Quintana 5.1
  • Kyle Hendricks 5.0
  • Tyler Chatwood 3.6
  • Yu Darvish 2.5

What is going to happen in 2018? I am going to make my projections here and will look for your predictions in the comment section. I’m going to go with a projected WAR of 18.1.

  • Yu Darvish 4.8
  • Jose Quintana 4.5
  • Kyle Hendricks 3.9
  • Jon Lester 2.5
  • Tyler Chatwood 2.4