A Left, Left, Left, Right, Left: Cubs Lefty-Heavy Rotation Built for Division Race
Joe Maddon is a notorious car fiend, so it figures that the Cubs would set up their rotation like an auto race. Now that Cole Hamels has joined the team and Mike Montgomery has retained his spot ahead of Tyler Chatwood, the plan for at least the immediate future is to make four left turns.
But if the idea of going with a quartet of southpaws gives you pause, you won’t find a kindred spirit in Joe Maddon.
“It’s called [Jim] Abbott, [Mark] Langston and [Chuck] Finley and if you go back to the ’79 White Sox, they had four,” Maddon said Friday (per Carrie Muskat). “It’s always OK for a team to have five righties, but once you get a couple lefties out there, everybody gets concerned about that. If the quality of the lefty is good, it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen it work before.”
The immediate thought might be, Well, it’s better than Chatwood, though seeing the last two starts from Montgomery and Jose Quintana doesn’t really support that notion. Not that I’m advocating for Chatwood to be there based on such a small sample, though I would not have been surprised had the Cubs chosen to keep him in the rotation.
More than just removing a seat in this game of musical chairs, there’s solid rationale for the Cubs rolling with so many lefties. The Brewers, who figure to be right there down the stretch in the NL Central, are one of the worst teams in baseball when it comes to hitting pitchers who throw with the wrong hand.
With the @Cubs left-handed heavy rotation. Top and Bottom 5 teams by batting average v. lefties. @NBCSCubs #Cubs
— Doug Glanville (@dougglanville) July 28, 2018
Milwaukee is also third worst in the league in terms of OPS (.681) against southpaws, also posting an 81 wRC+ that barely outstrips the Mets and Marlins (79). That’s not the only reason for loading up on lefties in the lineup, but it certainly carries some weight.
Things will change if and when Yu Darvish returns from the triceps issue that has sidelined him for much of the season, though lefties will still figure prominently. Then you consider Drew Smyly, who will give the Cubs yet another left-handed option once he’s activated. So many possibilities.
Of course, the real key is how these guys will do when the games really matter. And I’d be lying if I told you I was confident in this rotation’s ability to lock down games in a playoff series. There’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and then, however, so maybe they’ll have me singing a different tune by October
In the meantime, I’ll just get psyched about Hamels’ first Cubs start this Wednesday in Pittsburgh.