As was expected, Yu Darvish will miss the rest of the season thanks to elbow and triceps injuries. While the Chicago Cubs currently have the best record in the National League, it’s fair to point out just how bad Theo Epstein’s offseason decisions on starting pitching were.
Darvish has been injured on and off all season, but when he toed the slab he was straight awful. He’ll finish his 2018 season with a record of 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and an fWAR of 0.2 in eight starts.
Darvish was Epstein’s big offseason signing, brought in to solidify Chicago’s starting rotation. The Cubs had to shell out big money to get him. The 32-year-old was given a six-year, $126 million deal, of which he’s still owed $101 million over the next five seasons.
Before signing with the Cubs, we last saw Darvish getting hammered in the World Series. He was pulled early in both starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Houston Astros during the Fall Classic. It later came out that he was tipping pitches. But even excusing that, Darvish was a 32-year-old with an injury history who Epstein gave too much money over too many years.
Epstein also went out and signed the live-armed but average Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal. Chatwood has been an absolute dumpster fire on the mound…and that’s me being kind.
In 23 games and 20 starts, Chatwood has posted a 4-6 record with a 5.22 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and an fWAR of -0.4. He also has an insane 93 walks in 101.2 innings, with just 85 strikeouts. That’s unbelievable.
While some stat geeks liked Chatwood during his time with the Colorado Rockies, the raw stats didn’t look great. In 2017, he was 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 120 strikeouts and 77 walks in 147.2 innings. That’s just not the kind of hurler who will help pitch you to a World Series.
Epstein’s big pitching acquisition last season hasn’t fared much better. The Cubs traded their top prospect, slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez, to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jose Quintana in mid-July last year. They shipped Dylan Cease, Matt Rose and Bryant Flete away in that deal as well.
Quintana was another guy stat geeks felt was undervalued and many claimed the Cubs had correctly assessed his value in that trade. Well, in 2018, he has been nothing but average, while Jimenez has solidified himself as a top five prospect in baseball.
So far this season the 29-year-old Colombian lefty has a 10-9 record with a 4.36 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and an fWAR of 0.6 in 24 starts. Again, that’s not winning you a championship, which is the goal in Wrigleyville.
The sad part is that the Cubs added those three guys to help their rotation, when they had a guy who could have helped already on the roster. And they let him go.
Jake Arrieta wanted to be back with the Cubs, but instead Epstein went another direction. While Darvish has been a disaster, Arrieta has been good for the Philadelphia Phillies. Arrieta has a 9-8 record, with a 3.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and an fWAR of 2.3. That fWAR is better than what Darvish, Chatwood and Quintana have produced combined.
Arrieta wasn’t cheap, as the 32-year-old signed a three-year, $75 million deal. But we all know there’s no way that’s worse than Darvish’s contract.
The Cubs appear to have stopped the bleeding in the starting rotation by trading for Cole Hamels, who has been excellent so far. Despite Hamels’ arrival, it’s fair to question Epstein’s decisions when it comes to making deals for starting pitchers.
With a half-decent rotation, the Cubs would likely be World Series favorites right now. As it stands, they are a big question mark heading into the last few weeks of the season.