Friday, March 15, 2013

MAKING THE PITCH: Chicago Cubs

Will the Cubs win a lot more games in 2013?
(photo courtesy of Sharon P. Mancia)


Felipe M

We take a look at the projected starting rotations and closer situations of every MLB team.  Of course, this will come from a fantasy perspective.  All cited stats are based on 2013 
projections.  

Check out the Colorado Rockies pitching staff, here

This is a bit personal, however.  As you may or may not know, the Chicago Cubs are my team (along with the Chicago White Sox).  But the bitter apathy and comical season that was the 2012 Cubs had one silver lining: at least the starting pitching was good enough to make them somewhat respectable.  This season, however, trying to figure out this team has been nothing but a major headache.  And I'm not even talking about their closer situation!  Not because they're a lot worse than last year; it's because they have so many potential starters, it's difficult to figure out who's a legit starter, and who will only be holding down the fort until Matt Garza and Scott Baker come back.  The Cubs had an impressive offseason picking up a lot of pitchers.  But from a fantasy standpoint, it's very frustrating to get an accurate gauge on these guys.  

Yesterday, the Cubs outlined their pitching rotation for the start of the season, but their forecast is still not any clearer than it was on Wednesday.  Therefore, I'm only taking a close look at the 3 pitchers who will be there, for certain, on the regular rotation in 2013.

PROBABLE STARTING ROTATION
  1. Jeff Samardzija
    • Good: 8.82 K/9: need we say more?  He also has overpowering stuff that helps limit the base-hits (H/9 of 7.98).  
    • Bad: Has a little Kerry Wood in him; he won't give up many hits, but he'll give up plenty of walks (BB/9 3.78).  That brings his WHIP projection to 1.31.  Ouch!
  2. Matt Garza
    • Good: 8.43 K/9 and an approximate K/BB of 3/1 make him a legit pitcher in any format.
    • Bad: Injuries and lack of run support have haunted him, especially since becoming a Cub.  1.13 HR/9 is nothing to fret about, but on those days that the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field, might prove to be disastrous.  Matter of fact, Garza has a history of giving up a lot of homeruns and he's a career flyball pitcher.  However, based on his Groundouts/Flyouts ratio as a Cub, suggest that he is improving on forcing more groundouts than flyballs.
  3. Edwin Jackson
    • Good: One of the nastiest pitchers out there, Jackson is supposed to sport a K/9 of 7.73.  And after having a reputation of being a wild pitcher, he is projected to have a BB/9 of 2.81.  He won't hurt himself with the longball either (HR/9 of 0.92).
    • Bad: 1.29 WHIP is a bit high.  Despite the improvements in the last 3 seasons, Jackson can still come off as a bit unpredictable as a starting pitcher.  
CLOSERs
  1. Carlos Marmol
    • Good: 12.95 K/9 and 0.68 HR/9 is what makes him a good closer.  He's almost unhittable (H/9 of 6.95. Craig Kimbrel is better at 6.49).
    • Bad: Unfortunately, Marmol has a tough time controlling his walks (BB/9 of 6.68).  He seems to have trouble with command of his slider as batters are not biting on it like they were before.  The walks raise his WHIP to an alarming 1.52.  Currently, the Cubs are desperately trying to deal him.
  2. Kyuji Fujikawa
    • Good: He has enough experience at the role as he's racked up plenty of saves back in Japan.  Baseball America ranks him as the team's #9 prospect.  
    • Bad: Tough to gauge if and how a pitcher from another league will be able to streamline success to the Majors.  His projections seem to project him as a low-level, second-tier closer.  The Cubs seem to like him enough for the 9th inning job as he will no doubt move up to that role as soon as they deal Marmol.
FANTASY ADVICE

The other pitchers involved in this claustrophobia-like starting rotation are Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva, and Travis Wood.  I hate Feldman so I'm not even going to bother with him.  I've always liked Wood, but can be very inconsistent at times.  

The intriguing guy of the group is Villanueva.  In 2010, he was exclusively coming out of the bullpen for the Milwaukee Brewers, but last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, he posted impressive numbers as both a reliever and a starter.  He posted impressive strikeout totals and an adequate WHIP.  Projections from various publications show that he's expected to continue with the impressive strikeout rates, but WHIP is ranged between 1.25 and 1.45.  Nevertheless, if he can control the walks and the H/9 numbers, he can become a deep sleeper for at least the first month of the season.

Scott Baker is a flyball pitcher who has a history of giving up a lot of homeruns.  However, he is known to do a great job of controlling his walks and can post respectable strikeout totals (career K/9 of 7.23).  If he can come back without any issues from Tommy John surgery, he can prove to be a useful pitcher in 2013.

The Cubs did a good job acquiring pitchers that can post good strikeout totals, but they all come with baggage: control, injuries, spells of inconsistencies, lack of run support etc.  Nevertheless, I would be comfortable drafting any of these pitchers to fill in the middle of my rotation, but I wouldn't reach to put any of these guys at my top 3 slots.  

Obviously, the closer situation becomes more clear as soon as they find someone willing to deal with Marmol.  I would still take a wait-and-see approach on Fujikawa, though.

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