Chicago Cubs Walk Off: Week in Review Puts Starting Pitching in the Spotlight

Cubs starters continue to struggle, but it seems like SP Jordan Wicks continues to be the real deal. Cubs bullpen is absolutely killing it.

Jordan Wicks is demanding a rotation spot with his Spring Training performance.
Jordan Wicks is demanding a rotation spot with his Spring Training performance. / Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs, like every team, are still working through their rosters and trying to figure out who is going to make it to Opening Day. The position players and hitters are still working through their progressions, but it is hard not to focus on pitching with Opening Day less than three weeks away.

It doesn't mean the Cubs don't have some outstanding hitting going on right now. 3B Michael Bush has a .996 OPS. 1B Matt Mervis is showing with a .823 OPS. Maybe most importantly, Utility Man Christopher Morel has a .318 batting average with a .951 OPS. Everyone in Chicago, including White Sox fans, want him to make the roster, maybe even start at third base.

But the Cubs will only be as good as the pitching takes them.

The Zero Earned Club

Phenomenally, there is a host of prominent pitchers who have not given up a run this Spring Training (apologies to anyone we just jinxed).

RP Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs presumed closer, has pitched four innings with a .50 WHIP and given up no earned runs. Not to be outdone, RP Jose Cuas has five innings with a .60 WHIP and given up no earned runs. LP Luke Little is also at five innings with a 0 ERA. Julian Merryweather, in only 3 innings pitched, sits at 0 earned runs and an extraordinary .333 WHIP.

Jameson Taillon also sits at a 0.00 ERA but unfortunately with 0 innings. His back tightness has left an opening in the starting lineup that was unexpected for Manager Craig Counsell. According to Counsell feels that things are handled, "I don't think this is a long-term absence for Jamo, so it's not really one of those concerns. But, I think this is what's expected. I think we're in good shape."

The Starters - Not Zero Earned Runs Club

Starters continue to stretch out and try to find their rhythm. It has not been easy sledding for veterans or prospects for those vying for a rotation spot.

SP Javier Assad rebounded from an atrocious start to the season with zero earned runs against the Angels on March 6, which runs counter to his 10+ ERA in Spring Training. SP Kyle Hendricks has given up 6 earned in roughly six innings pitched. Similarly, SP Shota Imanaga has given up 5 earned in 5 innings. SP Hayden Wesneski had a solid outing on March 7 against Cincinnati, only allowing 1 run in 3 innings.

Jordan Wicks continues where he left off last year with 7.2 innings pitched in March with 1 earned run. Overall, he sits at 12.1 innings pitched and a 1.46 ERA, looking like the final spot in the rotation is his to lose.

From, Counsell is not committing, "We have not ruled anybody out at this point. So, we'll just keep a bunch of guys stretched out and see how that plays out."

Justin Steele, a Cy Young candidate last year and the Cubs Opening Day pitcher, sits at 5 innings pitched with a 6 ERA, but only a 1.00 WHIP. We aren't worried about Steele right now.

Evaluating Spring Training

With veterans playing with minimal impact and prospects just trying to make rosters, Spring Training is almost as hard to evaluate as the NFL. We want RP Caleb Killian to continue his awesome Spring Training with a .67 WHIP and 1.50 ERA. We want RP Daniel Palencia to continue to throw over 100 MPH. But who knows what is real or fantasy.

What seems abundantly obvious is that the starters will need to get a whole lot better, or the 0 ERA Club will need to live up to their name.

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