The 2016 Cubs are visiting territory that no baseball club has inhabited in the last thirty five years. That span obviously pales when compared to the length of time since Chicago’s last World Series Championship, an ignominious streak of over a hundred years which is likely to end this fall.
If they do go on to win it all, the biggest reason will be because of their pitching staff. Chicago’s starting rotation has a minuscule 2.86 earned run average, the lowest in Major League Baseball since the 1981 Houston Astros.
That heralded staff, whose overall ERA was 2.66, led the franchise to its first postseason in its twenty years of existence. There should be no surprise that its rotation featured several future members of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The ace of the staff was Nolan Ryan, whose 1.69 ERA was the lowest in all of baseball. Veteran right hander Don Sutton shared the staff lead in wins with Ryan, and both would be inducted into the Hall of Fame the following decade.
The rest of the rotation consisted of Joe Niekro, Bob Knepper, and Vern Ruhle, while the bullpen boasted the likes of closer Joe Sambito, Joaquin Andujar, Frank Lacorte, and Dave Smith. They were first in strikeouts and shutouts, while surrendering the fewest runs as well as home runs.
The rotation of the Cubs might be even better, led by 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta. Already a good staff that led Chicago to the N.L. championship series last year, the Cubs signed free agent pitcher John Lackey over the winter to join the likes of Kyle Hendricks, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester.