Cubs Playoff Rotation? Which Guys Should Get the Chance

We’re past the halfway point in the 2020 MLB season and the Cubs are alone in first place in the Central with a 96.7% chance to make the playoffs, but there’s definitely areas that can improve and questions the Cubs should be asking as we approach playoff time.

Those questions include who they should lineup as starters in the postseason and what relievers should we include on the roster and be relying on in high-leverage situations. Let’s begin with the starters.

Red = good, blue = bad, the darker red is the best, darkest blue is the worst, sorted by xwOBA

No question Darvish is the ace, he’s a Cy Young candidate and I don’t think there’s anyone I’d rather have leading the rotation. Hendricks is the clear number 2, after that it gets a bit sketchy. With Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood on the IL it’s difficult to say either of them are the 3 starter and Lester has been the worst starter on the Cubs this year. Lester ranks last among the seven starters above in almost every statistic as well as every expected statistic.

Alec Mills has gotten some good luck on his balls in play (.031 difference in Batting Average and Expected Batting Average). He’s a solid back end/5-starter, but he’s not the middle of the rotation starter the Cubs need. Alzolay and Rea have only made two starts and I don’t see David Ross really considering them as playoff starters. I’m really hoping Chatwood/ Quintana can come back because right now the rotation is not deep at all.

On to the Bullpen

Red = good, blue = bad, the darker red is the best, darkest blue is the worst, sorted by xwOBA

The Cubs bullpen has gone through so much turnover since last season that I don’t even know where to start. We do see Kimbrel’s numbers as terrible, but he’s looked much better recently and he has a ceiling much higher than others here. I’ve written about Ryan Tepera before and I’d like to see him keep getting opportunities, Josh Osich and Kyle Ryan have very similar numbers this year and look like pretty equal lefty options for David Ross.

Jeffress has gotten a lot of the high leverage innings this year, but I’m still a bit concerned about that huge difference in expected and real statistics: he’s gotten pretty lucky.

Rowan Wick has great stuff, but hasn’t been as effective as last season. That being said I still think he’s one of the best options the Cubs have.

Jason Adam is atop this list and may be worth more of a look, he’s also only faced 33 batters this year so I don’t want to put to much into him here.

Duane Underwood Jr. has shown great stuff, but can lose his control. He also has the ability to go multiple innings if he’s right, so he’s someone I like for the Cubs postseason roster.

Below we see the relievers with the highest win probability added (WPA) this year and the leverage at the beginning of innings they are brought into (inLI).

This chart shows more about who the Cubs are using in high-leverage situations right now. Jeffress, Wick, Winkler, Kimbrel, Osich, Ryan and Tepera seem to be that core group of guys in that order right now.

Jeffress and Winkler lead the relievers in ERA, but they haven’t been dominant by any means. IN fact, their expected ERAs are a lot higher than their actual ERAs. The Cubs did sign Pedro Strop; he’s currently in South Bend, but I’d be curious if he could provide a spark to this bullpen.

The Cubs have a defined top of the rotation with Darvish and Hendricks, but after that who really knows. The Bullpen has some solid options, but I’m not all that confident in Jeffress and Winkler getting the high-leverage playoff innings. I’d love for Kimbrel to get on a roll and Wick to keep finding his form. The next few weeks will show a lot about who will be used come October.

Published by Will McClaughry

Sports fan, data enthusiast and former division 3 college basketball player

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