What? Kyle Hendricks is the fifth starter? The reigning MLB era leader? The man who was voted third in the Cy Young voting? The guy who started the National League Pennant AND World Series clinching game? Why?? No!!! Screw you, Joe Maddon, you damn idiot!
Okay chill the fuck out and trust the process.
Earlier, Maddon announced the initial starting pitching rotation for the Cubs and it leaves a couple surprises, that, obviously, make sense. The rotation is Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Brett Anderson, and Hendricks. The two surprises are Hendricks being the fifth starter and Anderson being included over Mike Montgomery.
Firstly, with Kyle, he finished last year going 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA and 4.9 WAR. For most teams, he would be their opening day starter. However, the Cubs are stacked. Still, being a fifth starter is surprising, especially following veterans John Lackey and Brett Anderson, but look at the numbers. Lackey will be facing the Cardinals, while Hendricks will take on the Brewers in away games. Last season, Lackey was a monster in Busch Stadium pitching with a 1.93 ERA. In four games against the Cardinals total last year, he gave up six earned runs, but against the Brewers, he gave up eight earned runs in one fewer game. Lackey also pitched in St. Louis for a year and a half before joining the Cubs. He’s familiar with Busch and the Cardinals.
Hendricks has done well against the Cardinals, including throwing a near no-hitter in September. However, throughout the course of his career Lackey has been overall a better pitcher versus the Red Birds. Overall, Hendricks also has good career numbers versus Milwaukee by only giving up a .418 OPS to them. Moral of the story is that Lackey is usually a solid pitcher when pitching at the new Busch Stadium. We need to get the ball rolling, especially against the team that will be following us in the standings.
Next, is Anderson. He is having a dismal Spring with a 7.15 ERA in five games pitched. Regardless, Maddon believes in him. In 2015, he had a fine starting pitching campaign with the Dodgers, throwing a 3.69 ERA and finishing with 10-9 record while pitching 180.1 innings. Despite his injury plagued 2016, he has more starting pitching experience over Mike Montgomery which is valuable. He also has one of the better sinkers around resulting in a multitude of groundballs from the batters. His slider and curveball will be his downfall. Yet, all of the problems he is having are fixable and pitching coach, Chris Bosio, is the right man to fix them. “The Wizard of Boz” improved Arrieta’s, Hendricks, and Montgomery’s games and I have confidence he will do the same for Anderson.
Mike Montgomery is a great left-handed reliever having pitched a 2.10 ERA with a 2.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but, as a starter, his earned run average increased by two points and his strikeout-to-walk ratio went in the wrong direction. Anderson also has never pitched out of the pen in his career.
So, it is clear that, even though Anderson is having a forgettable Spring, he should be the final man in the rotation. He is an established starter, while Montgomery is an established reliever. Maddon probably will still start Montgomery early on in a couple games to experiment and, maybe, by the end of the season, their roles will reverse. However, for now, this is the correct decision, as is starting Hendricks in the fifth role. As we saw last year, starting hot out of the gate usually translates into a good endgame. This rotation is capable of giving the Cubs a hot start.
10 more days, people!!!!