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The Chicago Cubs starting rotation has been underperforming in the pitching department this year. They are second-worst in walks per nine innings at 4.22, tied for sixth-worst in fielding independent pitching (FIP), 20th in total strikeouts with 396, yet have somehow come out ninth-best in team earned run average with a 3.83 ERA for the entire team.

Jon Lester has been himself for the most part, and Mike Montgomery has been a viable option for the back end of the rotation. The other three starters have been a headache for most fantasy owners this season. The friendly confines have not been so friendly to high-profile free agent additions Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood, and Yu Darvish.

Jose Quintana can’t keep the ball in the park, Tyler Chatwood cannot find the strike zone, and Yu Darvish can’t stay on the field. Is there any hope for these busts in the remainder of the 2018 MLB season?

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Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish has been an epic disappointment for the Chicago Cubs this season, mainly because he isn’t on the field. The old saying rings true with Darvish this season, “You can’t make the club if you’re in the tub.” He has only started eight games and has gone 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA. He has not won more than 10 games since 2013 and has only pitched 200 innings in a season once (2013). He is currently attempting to work his way back from biceps tendinitis but recently had a setback in the minors.

Statistically speaking, Darvish is having a down year as well. The right-hander from Japan is walking more people than ever, 11.7 percent at 4.73 per nine innings, giving up more line drives, 22.8 percent, and more homers to fly balls, 17.5 percent at 1.58 per nine innings. The other peripheral numbers are not good; maybe he is still tipping his pitches like he was in the World Series. To measure this, baseball analytics has come up with a new stat called Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average, or SIERA for short. According to FanGraphs, “SIERA is the newest in a long line of ERA estimators. Like it’s predecessors FIP and xFIP, SIERA attempts to answer the question: what is the underlying skill level of this pitcher? Whatever the issue is with Darvish, the SIERA has declined (shown with a number like ERA, a negative the higher the number gets) over 137 points from 2.87 in 2013 to 4.03 in 2018.

When Darvish returns later this season, fantasy owners would be better off taking a pass on the righty. If you own him now, start trying to make a trade to see if anyone is willing to take a chance on a bounce back.


Tyler Chatwood

Tyler Chatwood is having trouble with his command this season since coming over from the Rockies. He has walked 70 batters, which translate to an 18.9 percent walk rate. He has four wild pitches and has hit four batters. In fact, of all the pitches he has thrown 43.97 percent of them have been balls.

When Chatwood does get the ball over the plate it usually gets hit. His medium and hard contact rate are a staggering 81.5 percent combined. He throws his fastball less than he ever has (58.9 percent), his cutter more than he ever has (25.0 percent), and his change-up is only averaging seven miles per hour slower than his fastball. He throws his fastball or cutter just shy of 84 percent of the time. Hitters are just sitting on that and have the ability to adjust to the off-speed stuff.

Chatwood is 3-5 with a 5.01 ERA and 1.78 WHIP; until he gets the command under control, he is not to be owned in any fantasy format. There is too much risk every time he takes the mound.  


Jose Quintana

Jose Quintana has been an interesting study this season. He is 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA, but his peripheral stats aren’t that different from Cubs ace Jon Lester who is 11-2 with a 2.25 ERA.

Quintana has only given up six more hits than Lester, but he has five more strikeouts and the two pitchers have the same SIERA of 4.55. So I dug a little deeper and found some more information. He has the second highest strikeouts per nine of his career (8.25), but he is also walking more batter per nine than ever (4.22). He has given up way too many homers and is getting hit harder than ever. His line drive rate is 22.4 percent, and his hard hits are at a career high of 38.5 percent. It has not all been Quintana’s fault; he has had a bit of unluckiness to his starts though. He has been given three runs or less of support in six of the 17 starts he has made. The Cubs are averaging just over five runs per game.

The numbers appear to indicate that the 29-year-old may be declining, which is normal for most pitchers once they pass their prime age. It may be time for fantasy owners to cut their losses and move on, as we may have already seen the best he has to offer.

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