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Quality: A Great Place to Start

Posted By Paul Jackson On Mar 22 2011 @ 8:14 pm In Chicago Cubs | 1 Comment

As the Cubs started the Spring slate a little over a month ago one of the questions that needed to be answered was in the pitching rotation. With a little over a week left before Opening Day, Mike Quade has a tough choice to make. I liken this choice to the choices those in Washington D.C. have to make. Most of those choices affect a lot of people, if not all. These choices will make some people angry and some happy. These choices will be looked back on as wrong or right. As always, I am happy I’m not in the position to have to make those (or this) choice(s).

Obviously, who Mike Quade selects as the 5th starter in the Chicago Cubs rotation will not have an effect on the millions of families in the world or the nation as we know it. (Obviously, I blew this choice way out of proportion). But it will affect Cubs fans and their families and Cubs Nation. The reason it’s such a difficult choice to me is because of the extremely poor performances of those pitchers being considered for the gig.

Braden Looper came to Cubs camp thanks to a non-roster invite and hasn’t done much to argue his case, posting a 1-0 record with a 10.97 ERA in 10.2 innings. He’s allowed 3 Home Runs, 17 hits and 13 runs, all earned in 4 games, one of which he started. Looper is a career journeyman who’s recently played for the Mets, Brewers and Cardinals and while he did find some success closing for the Mets and starting for the Cardinals, he hasn’t been able to do much good over the past couple years. Now, I’m not one to determine a pitcher’s worth based on Spring stats but for someone fighting for a spot in the rotation he wouldn’t be my first choice.

Carlos Silva came on with the Cubs last year in a trade with the Mariners that saw two teams wanting to exchange horrible contracts. Fortunately for the Cubs, Silva started the year 9-0 with a sub-3 ERA. Unfortunately for the Cubs he was garbage down the stretch as he battled injuries and terrible consistency. It’s hard to believe, but he’s actually doing worse than Looper this Spring. Most of his bad luck came in his first Spring start that resulted in the first dugout skirmish of the season but he hasn’t done much better since. Overall, he’s 0-2 with a 15.88 ERA in 4 games (3 games started). He’s allowed 4 Home Runs, 29 hits and 26 runs (20 earned) in just over 11 innings pitched. What does this mean? Well, he’s had a terrible Spring and is not a pitcher I feel good about in the 5 spot this April.

Andrew Cashner has emerged as the third, and in my opinion the best, option as the 5th starter this April. He has yet to throw a 60 pitch outing but he’s done decent this Spring overall and outstanding when compared to the other two candidates. Cashner is 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in 4 games (2 starts). He’s allowed 5 runs, all earned, in 11.1 Innings on only 1 Home Run and 11 Hits. He’s walked 7 batters in those 11 innings though, something he definitely wants to change if he’s going to have success in the Major Leagues.

It’s tough to just throw a young guy like Cashner in the fire that is the Chicago Cubs but sometime that’s what you need to see. No, I don’t want to see Silva and his $9 million sitting on the bench or in the bullpenĀ  and thank God we didn’t give Looper much. You’re not just going to put an expensive guy on the hill because he’s expensive though right? As odd as that may seem, I have a feeling that is what’s going to happen. I hope I’m wrong… but even with Cashner in the 5 spot I’m having trouble seeing much production out of the end of the rotation for the Cubs. I’m happy we have Garza and Dempster and Wells (who’s having a magnificent Spring: 20 Innings, 3 Earned Runs, 1.35 ERA) pitching well in thereĀ  and I hope Zambrano can keep his sanity throughout the year.

While these choices may not mean life or death to millions of people, these are tough choices that millions of Cubs fans are going to be questioning: Who is going to be my 5th starter? Looper? Silva? Cashner? Who’s going to play Second Base? Barney? Dewitt? Is it going to be a long Summer? Can we hit the ball? Can we pitch with consistency and efficiency? Can we play defense? Spring stats might not be the best indicator of future pitching performances but at this point it’s all I’ve got and it doesn’t look so good.

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