Last year around this time, the big debate was about who should start the Wild Card game: Jake Arrieta, or Jon Lester? Arrieta then finished the season in historic fashion, making the answer quite simple.
This season, there could be a question that nobody seems to be talking about: Who should start Game 2 of the NLDS?
I know a lot of Cub fans are thinking, “Don’t jinx us! We haven’t won the division yet!” Len Kasper would love to hear about your thoughts in that regard. But the Cubs are going to win this division easily. And they’re going to have home-field advantage in the NLDS as well.
For most fans, the early playoff rotation would seem to be a no-brainer: Arrieta in Game 1, and Lester in Game 2.
However, Kyle Hendricks has ridiculous numbers at Wrigley Field this year. He has a 1.31 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and has only allowed as many as 3 earned runs in one (ONE!) home start this entire season. That was his first start at home back in April, by the way. Hendricks still has good numbers on the road (3.25 ERA), but nothing close to his home dominance.
Jon Lester has also been a lot better at home this season, with a 2.01 Wrigley ERA as compared to a 3.68 mark on the road. Lester is obviously more battle-tested for playoff baseball though. Wouldn’t you feel more confident with Jon Lester pitching a big Game 3 on the road than Kyle Hendricks?
The Cubs don’t plan on pitching anybody on three days’ rest in the playoffs, which means the Game 2 starter won’t be coming back for a potential Game 5. In that case, Joe Maddon should at least be tempted to go Arrieta, Hendricks, Lester, Lackey, Arrieta in the first round series.
There’s a chance Maddon won’t even consider this option, and we’re still a month away from it being discussed in earnest. But it’s fun to start looking ahead, and starting Kyle Hendricks in Game 2 should absolutely be considered closely.