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Gauging Trust Levels in Cubs’ Starting Pitchers


The Chicago Cubs are currently sitting at 78-68 and in a tie for the second wild-card spot with the Milwaukee Brewers. They're two games ahead of the New York Mets, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies are still hanging around at 2.5 and 3.5 games back, respectively. With just 16 games remaining, the Cubs will be treating every game as a must-win in an effort to secure a playoff berth.

A significant chunk of the Cubs’ playoff chances rests on the performance of the starting pitching staff, comprised of Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester. We’re going to take a look at these Cubbies and determine the trust levels you should have in them down the stretch in the fantasy baseball playoffs.

Cubs' Remaining Schedule: Pirates, Reds, Cardinals, @Pirates, @Cardinals

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Jose Quintana

Jose Quintana has had a decent season, holding a 13-8 record with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 143/43 K/BB ratio over 157 and 1/3 innings pitched in 2019. He has a 21.2% strikeout rate, 8.7% swinging-strike rate, 1.1 HR/9, and a solid 6.0% barrels/batted ball event rate this season. He’s also 9-2 with a 4.41 ERA over his last 15 starts as he’s been piling up the wins.

Quintana's recent form has been unappealing, though, to say the least. He has allowed four earned runs or more in three of his last four starts, and just got crushed by the San Diego Padres in a three-inning, four-earned run beatdown. He concerningly only recorded one strikeout and hasn't completed six innings in four straight starts.

Trust Level: 6/10

Jose Quintana’s awful recent form and lack of strikeout-upside make him an unappealing play in the fantasy playoffs, though he's worth a shot if you're chasing wins.

 

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks has been a steady, if not exciting, starting pitcher option in 2019. He’s 10-9 on the year, with a 3.33 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 137/31 K/BB ratio over 159 and 2/3 innings pitched. He has limited his walks (1.7 BB/9) and hard contact (5.4% barrels/batted ball event) and ranks in the top-10 in average exit velocity allowed (86.6 MPH). His 20.9% strikeout percentage won’t blow anyone away and takes his fantasy appeal down a bit, but his solid ERA and decent record keep him in the conversation.

Hendricks is 2-1 over his last seven starts, compiling a 4.12 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a 30/6 K/BB ratio over 39 and 1/3 innings pitched.

Trust Level: 7/10

Hendricks is a starting pitcher who you can trust in the fantasy playoffs, but don’t expect him to suddenly morph into a strikeout-heavy pitcher. He’ll help in the ERA and WHIP categories, and he’ll be a decent candidate for a win or two.

 

Yu Darvish

Don’t let Yu Darvish’s record of 6-6 in 2019 fool you - he’s a useful starting pitcher to employ in the fantasy playoffs. He racks up the strikeouts at an impressive 29.2% clip, and his 13.1% swinging-strike rate, 94.1 MPH average fastball velocity, and 204/55 K/BB ratio in 2019 all stand out as impressive metrics.

However, truth be told, there’s some risk involved with starting Yu Darvish. He’s walked too many batters (3.0 BB/9) and allowed too many homers (1.8 HR/9) and barrels (7.9% barrels/batted ball event) on the season. Darvish has quietly been on a bit of a roll lately, going 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and a 63/4 K/BB ratio over his last seven starts (42 1/3 inning pitched). He fanned 14 over six innings in a win over the San Diego Padres in his latest start.

Trust Level: 7.5/10

Darvish’s strikeout-rate is elite (11th best in the MLB), and that’s the main reason you’re starting him in the fantasy playoffs. He’s in great form, but is still giving up too many walks (and homers) and will be facing a few teams that have crushed him this season. Darvish is a guy you have to plug into lineups, but his trust level is a little lower than it normally would be due to those factors.

 

Jon Lester

Jon Lester, a veteran in his 14th season in the big leagues, is not having a great season. His surface numbers are less than ideal with a 12-10 record, 4.51 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and a 154/49 K/BB ratio over 155 and 2/3 innings pitched. Digging deeper, Lester is recording a career-high with his 1.4 HR/9, 35.6% hard-hit rate, 88 MPH average exit velocity, and 8.1% barrel rate. His ERA is the highest it has been since 2012 and his WHIP is his highest since 2007.

To throw some salt in the wound, Lester has been in terrible form. He’s 3-3 with a 6.63 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, and a 38/22 K/BB over 36 and 2/3 innings pitched in his last seven starts.

Trust Level: 4/10

Lester is very difficult to trust in the fantasy playoffs, as his subpar metrics and awful recent form are clear red flags that are hard to look past.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice