Did the Cubs’ rotation improve?

> Probably not.

The Cubs had another Cubs-esque year in 2011, going 71-91. The actually had a half-decent offense, as they were near the top of the NL in team batting average.

But why were they so bad? Their pitching; primarily the starting rotation. Practically none of their starters performed to the expectations they were expected. They did deal a few of their starters and acquired a few as well, but I don’t know if it was enough to lift them out of the chasm that is the bottom of the NL Central.

This is how I would assemble the Cubs’ rotation in 2012:

#1 starter- Matt Garza- 10-10, 3.32 ERA

Garza was the only decent starter in 2011, despite the fact Mike Quade named him the #3 starter at the beginning of the season. Garza actually had a career year, setting a career-best ERA. His wins don’t show it, but he didn’t get run support most of the time.

Garza also had a career-high in strikeouts, punching out 197 in 198 innings. His K/9 was exactly 9, which was a huge improvement from his 6.6 K/9 while pitching for the Rays in 2010. Garza, who used to be known as primarily a fly-ball pitcher because of his aggressive use of the high fastball, could be turning into a strikeout pitcher.

For some reason, Garza is on the Cubs’ trade block. If they trade him, their rotation will have close to no hope in 2012, as you’ll see from the pitchers I’m about to talk about.

#2 starter- Ryan Dempster- 10-14, 4.80 ERA

Dempster had an awful 2011, to say the least. In 2010, he went 15-12 with a 3.85 ERA, so his numbers really plummeted in 2011. The only area he was half decent was his innings and strikeouts. He ate up 202 1/3 innings, something the Cubs needed.

Garza has a sinker, splitter, and slider in his repertoire, so he’s known as a groundball pitcher. But, his 8.5 K/9 in 2011 was a career-high, so, like Garza, he could be becoming a strikeout pitcher.

But, since Dempster’s career year in 2008 in which he went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA, his ERA has consistently gone down- 2.96, 3.65, 3.85, 4.80. Maybe we could expect worse next year, but I kind of doubt it. Dempster can be a good pitcher, but he just isn’t consistent enough yet, and it may be too late in his career to turn it around.

#3 starter- Paul Maholm- 6-14, 3.66 ERA

After the Pirates opted not to re-sign Maholm, the Cubs picked him up on a one-year deal, and, in my opinion, it isn’t a bad pickup. His 6-14 shows nothing of how well he pitched in 2011- the Pirates didn’t have any offense.

Maholm definitely isn’t a strikeout pitcher, as he had just a 5.4 K/9 in 2011, to go along with 97 strikeouts in 162 1/3 innings. I don’t see him pitch very often, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he’s a groundball pitcher. But it’s fine that he doesn’t strike out many batters- Garza and Dempster have that covered.

I think Maholm will have a decent year in 2012. But that’s just my gut feeling, I could be wrong; he’s been pretty inconsistent over the past few years.

#4 starter- Randy Wells- 7-6, 4.99 ERA

Wells got injured in his first start of the year, so he missed the first few months. When he came back, he struggled, and for most of the year his ERA was well north of 5.00. But, he had a good September that included a shutout against the Giants, and lowered his ERA by a large margin.

Wells is an extreme groundball pitcher, and his K/9 was just 5.5 in 2011. Yet, he somehow found a way to give up 23 homers in just 135 1/3 innings, which means left a few too many sinkers up.

I don’t know about Wells. I don’t see much in him, and have a feeling he won’t have more than an average season in 2012.

#5 starter- Chris Volstad- 5-13, 4.89 ERA

The first thing the Cubs need to to do with Volstad- thank him. He was part of the trade that sent the psychopath- AKA Carlos Zambrano- to the Miami Marlins, so they won’t have to deal with his antics anymore. Anyway, with that aside, I see talent in Volstad. He hasn’t had the best career so far, but he’s still young and has time to turn it around. I think the Marlins gave up on him a bit early, and it was actually their fault for his lack of wins, because they didn’t give him any run support.

Volstad is considered a groundball pitcher, but I don’t really see it, as he gave up 23 homers in 2011. He doesn’t strike out all that many, with his K/9 being 6.4 in 2011. But I think all he needs to do is start missing more bats, and he’ll be successful.

I see a bright future for Volstad, but for some reason I have a feeling he won’t be in Chicago very long.

And that’s how I think the rotation should go. There will be some competition in Spring Training, as Casey Coleman, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine, and possibly Jeff Samardzija could possibly challenge for a spot in the rotation.

> Today was the day. Ryan Braun finally pleaded his case in front of three arbitrators earlier today, but not much info was released. The decision won’t be made by Saturday, however, so we’ll have to wait a little longer.

The case took place a few days earlier than expected, as it was supposed to happen after Braun received his MVP award at a dinner on Saturday. At least that’s what’s Lance Allen reported earlier this month. But it would be nice if it were all settled before the dinner; it could make things a little less awkward, or ten times more awkward.

> And that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

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