Cubs Preparing to do Something Unusual with their Pitchers

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The Chicago Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to a three-year deal on Thursday. We have learned that his signing has not changed their chase of both Alex Cobb and Shohei Ohtani. Even if they strike out on one of those two, it’s expected that they continue to add starting pitching. If this is the case, all of a sudden the rotation is overloaded.

  1. Jon Lester
  2. Kyle Hendricks
  3. Jose Quintana
  4. Shohei Ohtani (theoretically)
  5. Alex Cobb (theoretically)
  6. Tyler Chatwood

That’s a hell of a lot of depth, and all guys that would expect to start. But how functional is a six-man rotation? It could prove to be very functional for the Cubs.

Cubs six-shooter

A six-man rotation could be a huge benefit for the Cubs, on several levels. It makes so much sense it almost doesn’t make sense to not create a rotation that’s six men deep.

The Cubs have played, and expect to continue to play more than 162 games. Jon Lester has thrown more than 650 innings with the Cubs over the past three years. Since 2012 he has thrown 1,226.2 regular season innings and 120 playoff innings.

Then on top of it all, Jon has that “grenade” in his elbow that could end his season at any time.

Giving Jon that extra day can pay off come late September and October for the team. But Jon isn’t the only one that will benefit.

Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani has never thrown more than 160 innings in a season. A young arm, that has never felt the stress an MLB game before. Giving him an extra day between games will most certainly benefit his arm – especially since a lot of Japanese pitchers tend to have arm issues in their first American season.

But there’s another advantage here with Ohtani – selling him on having more time playing offense.

Typically a pitcher needs two days after a start to rest their arm. So if Ohtani were to start on a Sunday, he wouldn’t be available to play the field until Wednesday. Then he would start again Friday, and off until Sunday. Allowing him to hit in four games a week, and two of those games he would leave early (when he pitched).

If there is a six-man rotation, the Cubs would benefit from his bat more often.

Starts Sunday, and would be available Wednesday. He could hit Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. That’s five of the seven days in a week. That extra day could become another 100 at bats on a season.

A six-man rotation could very well be a huge selling point to Ohtani.

Chatwood and Cobb

This could be a value for Tyler Chatwood, and if they acquire Alex Cobb. Chatwood has never thrown more than 160 innings and Cobb threw the most in his career in 2017, with 179.1. Both players have had extensive DL stints due to arm surgery (Chatwood has had two Tommy John surgeries), and stressing their arms by asking them to pitch 200 innings might be the wrong move.

Putting them in a rotation with six arms can give them that extra day, and it could pay huge dividends.

Over the past two seasons we have seen two types of pitchers succeed – guys with 95 MPH heat, or guys with devastating curveballs. Chatwood is both. If that arm is fresh come October, he could be the type to flourish.

Cobb also features a worm-killer of a curve (more of a knuckle-curve). He doesn’t miss a ton of bats but gets an abnormal amount of grounders with his breaking ball. With the infield defense the Cubs feature, he could be great. With that extra day, he could remain strong from May until October.

Houston, you might have been onto something

There is another thought here. The Cubs very well may add another two starters, but maybe one won’t be expected to start. What if the Cubs look to have their fifth starter really be two starters?

What I mean here is, there is a trend among some of the more trendy ball clubs (Tampa and Houston specifically) where they only allow their guys to pitch through the first two times through an order. Then the next guy up would run through the lineup once. Then it’s turned over to the regular pen guys.

That would give a theoretical 150 innings to a “fifth” starter. It keeps the other guys on their regular days rest, and allows guys like Chatwood to ease into a season.

This is potentially a more likely tactic since Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana all had ERA’s that were much higher with five or more days rest. While their pitchers might be more rested in a six-man rotation, it could be at the expense of performance.

Stockpiling Pitching

An organization that had pitching depth issues in 2017, could be on the cusp of having pitching overflowing every crevice of the franchise. They made a consistent effort to draft pitching, they have signed multiple pitchers in this offseason, and expect to acquire more over the next two or three months.

This is not a bad thing. A baseball team can never have enough pitching. With Chatwood and potentially others, the team will flip a position of weakness to a position of good depth. Whichever way the Cubs end up going, just adding the depth is good management. Doing so at a great budget price – that’s great management.

I absolutely love the stress the front office is putting on pitching, and fully expect them to continue this through the winter. By the end of next week, the Cubs could cement their chances at another deep palyoff run.