While I’d been hold fast to the idea that Jake Arrieta still had potential to be the go-to guy in the rotation, my grip was loosened with each questionable start down the stretch. It became clear that not only would the reigning Cy Young be bumped back, but that two more worthy candidates for this year’s award would supplant him atop the rotation. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have been lights-out since the All-Star break, if not before, and they’ll be opening the postseason for the Cubs.
Lester’s home ERA is a paltry 1.74 and he’s held opponents to a .181/.240/.297 slash in 103.1 innings pitched. Then you’ve got Hendricks, who has a 1.32 ERA and has allowed a .199/.244/.272 slash in 95.1 innings at Wrigley. While both pitched very well on the road, the splits are just so obscenely good at home that it only makes sense to open a playoff series this way.
Arrieta has also been better at home, but the disparity in his splits isn’t nearly as stark. His strikeouts are down when he pitches as a visitor, though a decrease in walks helps to offset that. In fact, his K/BB ratio is identical both home and away despite going from 10.38 to 6.91 K/9. I have said for a while now that I think the nearly two weeks off will do him good, give him a chance to get out of his own head for a while.
And while advanced metrics don’t have the ability to properly illustrate it, I believe the chip on Arrieta’s shoulder will balance him out and maybe keep him from over-rotating and leaning back during his delivery.
Last up is Big John Lackey, who’s also much better when pitching at Wrigley but who has been around the block — not to mention through the alley — enough to be a very worthy option for Game 4. Really not a lot to say here beyond the requisite nods to Lackey’s postseason experience and success. Dude knows how to buckle down and go to work, which you hope he doesn’t even have to do in the DS.
Given the need for the Mets and Giants to throw their respective aces out there in the Wild Card, it looks like both teams will have to go 2, 3, 1 as far as their own rotations go. Then again, MadBum could probably just keep throwing on one or two days rest. This is where I reiterate a desire to see the Cubs face the Mets in that opening series, if only to see Bartolo Colon one more time. There’s also the measure of payback and having a Thorietta matchup in Game 3. Good times.