Despite many changes and feared potential trades for the 2021 Chicago Cubs, the team’s pitching staff retains 80 percent of its 2020 rotation. As pitchers and catchers report for spring training, it is time for a quick rundown of the anticipated rotation and bullpen. Pitchers are presented in order of most games played with the Cubs.
2021 Chicago Cubs Starters
2020 stats: 2.88 ERA, 0.996 WHIP, 3.55 FIP
The Professor (who had always resembled a 1940s G.I. to this author) returns as the club’s ace. All seven of his big league seasons have been with the North Siders, and the comparisons to early Greg Maddux are arguably apt. The Californian has posted a career 3.12 earned run average and 1.105 walks plus hits per inning pitched over a workhorse’s 1,047.1 innings. David Ross should hope the trade rumors die quickly for Hendricks.
2020 stats: 5.08 ERA, 1.511 WHIP, 4.66 FIP
The 2016 World Series remnant count remains the same in the starting rotation with the return of Arrieta. Though swapping a base-throwing yips-plagued pudgy hurler with the model of human perfection might sound like an improvement, the Texan has struggled mightily since leaving Chicago. Fans are hoping that the Windy City serves as an oasis, and that Arrieta’s old form returns.
2020 stats: 4.48 ERA, 1.155 WHIP, 5.44 FIP
Mills had a bit of a statistical decline in the Covid-shortened season compared to 2019, though he did see more action. The Tennesean’s 2020 highlight was certainly his no-hit performance against the division-rival Brewers. The 2021 Chicago Cubs will hope for a repeat of that performance.
2020 stats: 2.95 ERA, 1.172 WHIP, 3.05 FIP
Alzolay began to come into his own in 2020. He demonstrated dramatic improvement from 2019, albeit in a small sample size. Averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings, fans will be hoping the Venezuelan can keep the strikeouts rolling.
2020 stats: 2.73 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, 3.88 FIP
If a team could pick either having Yu Darvish or Davies, the likely answer would certainly be the former. Yet, Davies does bring a reliable replacement presence. His 2020 campaign was his best yet, and the above stats should be envied by almost any starter. Fans should temper their expectations though, as the Arizonan did not exactly fare well during his first go around in the National League Central while a member of the Brewers crew.
2020 stats: 6.18 ERA, 1.572 WHIP, 6.30 FIP
Williams’s numbers do not exactly generate confidence. In a normal 162-game season, Williams averages 156 innings and posts an almost-respectable 4.13 ERA and 1.294 WHIP. If the Californian can return to his 2018 form, the 2021 Chicago Cubs should be in store for a treat. If 2019 and 2020 are a better indication, then Williams is perhaps the most likely to see the boot to the bullpen out of the six starting contenders.
2021 Chicago Cubs Relievers
2020 stats: 5.17 ERA, 1.404 WHIP, 7.08 FIP
The senior member of the 2021 Chicago Cubs bullpen with 91 appearances, Ryan had a rough 2020 campaign. The Floridian has struggled with his control, as evidenced by 1.76 strikeout to walk ratio.
2020 stats: 3.12 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 2.67 FIP
Wick has been a reliable presence out of the bullpen since joining the Cubs. The Canadian should be a go-to pick for skipper David Ross.
2020 stats: 5.28 ERA, 1.435 WHIP, 3.97 FIP
Success in Chicago has continued to elude the Gargoyle. The Alabaman has been among the worst options out of the bullpen, and improvement does not appear to be on the horizon.
2020 stats: 5.66 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 4.74 FIP
In 17 games, Underwood told the tale of the Cubs bullpen. A lot of runs, a lot of strikeouts, and need for starters to go longer into games. The Georgian is still young though and hopes to turn things around.
2020 stats: 2.95 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 5.32 FIP
The wild-eyed Winkler was a bright spot among Cubs relievers. The Illinoisan kept runs, homers, and base runners down to a respectable level.
2020 stats: 18.00 ERA, 2.000 WHIP, 15.19 FIP
Wieck did not have a productive 2020, but the numbers are deceiving. The Texan pitched only one inning. After recovering from cancer in 2019, Wieck hopes to rebound and translate some encouraging AAA numbers to big league success.
2020 stats: 3.29 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 3.78 FIP
Yet another young arm, Adam enters only his fourth year of major league baseball. After a rocky rookie campaign, the Kansan has two consecutive seasons with earned run averages under 3.30.
2020 stats: 6.52 ERA, 1.655 WHIP, 4.74 FIP
One of the few true veterans on the pitching roster, Chafin brings seven years of big league experience. In his first six seasons with Arizona, he posted a 3.57 ERA over 265 innings. Unfortunately, the Ohioan’s early success took a downward turn in 2020. The Cubs faithful will be hoping this blip disappears as Chafin looks to return to form with the 2021 Chicago Cubs.
2020 stats: 4.98 ERA, 1.662 WHIP, 5.22 FIP
After impressive 2017 and 2018 campaigns, Holder struggled the past two years with the New York Yankees. On a relatively cheap sub-million dollar contract, Ross and company are hopeful that the Mississippian repeats his earlier success.
2021 Chicago Cubs Pitching Prognosis
Last year’s Cubs placed fifth in ERA in the National League, fourth in WHIP, and fifth in FIP. Though the bulk of the pitching staff is returning, the loss of ace Yu Darvish does not bode well. Still, if Davies and Arrieta can pick up even part of the slack, the Cubs should have a decent performance from the mound. The key to a successful 2021 Chicago Cubs season will come from the batter’s box.
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