[dropcap]G[/dropcap]ood pitching is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m not really sure if that is an actual idiom, but if a team is packed to the brim with a good rotation and bullpen, then the sky’s the limit. Both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox came into the 2015 season with improved pitching staffs and those hurlers have been the main reasons why each team is not in the cellar of their prospective divisions.
Between the two Chicago Major League Baseball teams, the Cubs (15-13, 2nd in National League Central through May 9) are by far the superior pitching team. As a staff, the team has a 4.09 earned run average (17th in MLB) and has only given up 0.75 home runs per nine innings (6th in MLB). A single home run now and again won’t hurt a team, but those random bombs can come back to bite a team if they give up a careless walk or hit. And for the average sports fan, seeing your favorite pitcher give up a home run can take the wind out of your sales. But the Cubs seemed to have addressed the previous year’s problem of giving up unnecessary walks as their control is on point. This year, the North Siders’ starting pitchers are only giving up 1.96 walks per nine innings in 2015, a drastic decrease from 2014’s figure of 2.92.
I realize all these stats may seem a bit confusing. Trust me—the research for this column definitely had my head spinning. But cutting down a full walk is major, especially given the Cubs’ defense situation. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Chris Coghlan are some average fielders, but the team’s Total Defensive Runs Saved (how many runs a fielder saved or hurt his team compared to the average players) ranked 14th in the National League in 2014 and the team ranks 12th so far this year. If the team’s rotation can stay on this pace or even improve, they will be able to chip this number away and let the offense do their thing. Most of the pitchers, including newly minted staff ace Jon Lester, were off to slow starts, but it looks as if they are figuring things out now.
The White Sox, on the other hand, were not so lucky with their pitching staff in 2014. The team ERA ranked 13th in the American League and the staff gave up 3.48 walks per nine innings. The main culprits of those underwhelming numbers were the relievers. The 2014 White Sox bullpen was a revolving door of minor leaguers who were trying out for a big league job. There were times last season when you would watch a game and say to yourself, “Who is that?”
General Manager Rick Hahn set out to fix the bullpen by adding veteran lefty Zach Duke and closer David Roberton. And those new additions have made headway as Robertson has not given up a run in 11 innings through May 9 and the bullpen ERA ranks 4th in the AL. It’s also surprising to see the White Sox bullpen doing so well as U.S. Cellular Field is one of the more hitter friendly parks in the majors.