Jon Lester has been the Cubs’ Opening Day starter in four of his five seasons with the club. The only exception was 2016, when the Opening Day nod was given to Jake Arrieta. That was understandable, given Arrieta’s amazing season in 2015.
In my view, the Cubs should do the same thing in 2020 with a pitcher who had a great second half — Yu Darvish. By the end of 2019, Darvish was clearly the best starter on the staff. Lester, on the other hand, had a horrid last two months: 6.09 ERA, 1.838 WHIP, .901 (!) opponents OPS.
Manager David Ross has some thoughts about his rotation for the season-opening series against the National League Central rival Brewers but plans to talk with coaches Tommy Hottovy and Mike Borzello and the candidates before announcing his decision.
“I’m going to put the guy I see best fit for that (opening day) spot,” said Ross, looking at past success, who finished strong last season and looks sharp in spring training.
Truth be told, Lester hasn’t been a great Opening Day starter. In the four openers he’s thrown for the Cubs, the team has won just two of those games and Lester’s numbers are pedestrian: 4.34 ERA, 1.875 WHIP. He was a little better in the four season openers he started with the Red Sox: 3.70 ERA, 1.233 WHIP.
I think it’s time to start with the hot hand, the guy who showed “ace” form over the last three months of 2019, Yu Darvish. After the All-Star break in 2019, Darvish posted a 2.76 ERA, 0.808 WHIP and had seven walks and 118 strikeouts in 81⅔ innings. That BB/K ratio was historic:
I know lots of people shrug aside second half stats - as do I - but Yu Darvish’s 118 strikeouts vs 7 walks is the best strikeout to walk ratio a starting pitcher has had (75+ IP) in a second half in the history of baseball.— Rob Silver (@RobSilver) November 26, 2019
The history of baseball.
Darvish made two starts vs. the Brewers last year and held them to one run in 10 innings, with one walk and 15 strikeouts.
Here’s how I would slot the rotation: Darvish, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks against the Brewers. Then Lester could start the home opener against the Pirates March 30. That would make the rotation through the first three series look like this:
March 26: Darvish
March 28: Quintana
March 29: Hendricks
March 30: Lester
March 31: Tyler Chatwood
April 1: Darvish
April 3: Quintana
April 4: Hendricks
April 5: Lester
Darvish’s great second half has earned him the Opening Day start, in my view. What say you?
The Cubs’ Opening Day 2020 starter should be...
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