We’ll meet quite a few pitchers in this installment.
Just another reminder that you can read stories behind many of these numbers in “Cubs By The Numbers,” by Kasey Ignarski, Matt Silverman and me, a fun look through the history of our favorite franchise’s jersey digits. An updated version of the book came out in 2016. Get yours here.
On to the thirties! A note: For pitchers, only their WAR while pitching is considered.
30: This was closer than I thought it would be. Ken Holtzman had two stints with the Cubs (1965-71 and 1978-79) and posted 16.3 bWAR in blue pinstripes. His 6.4 bWAR season in 1970 ranked fourth among N.L. pitchers. Ted Lilly’s three-plus years as a Cub generated 15.1 bWAR for second. Steve Stone is third with 6.4.
31: Two Hall of Fame pitchers who both had two stints with the Cubs lead this list. Fergie Jenkins’ time as a Cub tops it with 53.3 bWAR. Greg Maddux had his best years in Atlanta, and 33.7 as a Cub. Bob Buhl, who pitched four-plus years for the Cubs (1962 into early 1966) is a distant third at 9.0.
32: Most of the guys who have worn this number are footnotes in Cubs history. The two that aren’t: Milt Pappas (1970-73), 16.2 bWAR and Jon Lieber (1999-2002, 2008), 13.0.
33: The closest race yet: Bill Bonham (1971-77) posted 14.6 bWAR as a Cub. Hank Wyse (1942-47) also posted 14.6 — but he wore No. 45 in 1942, so wearing No. 33 his total WAR was 14.3. The award goes to Bonham.
34: Jon Lester has had some great years for the Cubs, but Kerry Wood posted 25.5 bWAR in his Cubs career and is the winner. Lester is at 13.4. Ray Burris (1973-79) had 10.3.
35: This is yet another number not worn by any truly notable Cubs. Just one player has worn this number for as many as four seasons — Turk Lown (1951-54), who is second on this list with 2.2 bWAR. The winner: Shockingly, it’s Cole Hamels, who made 39 starts in a season and a third in blue pinstripes, with 5.6 bWAR as a Cub.
36: Don Elston, who is one of the best relievers in Cubs franchise history, posted 10.1 bWAR wearing No. 36 (along with -0.4 wearing No. 43). 8.5 for the Sarge, Gary Matthews, is second, Randy Wells is third at 7.3 and Kevin Tapani a close fourth at 7.2.
37: Dick Ellsworth was a fine lefthander for the Cubs from 1960-66. (Plus a September callup in 1958 when he wore No. 31.) His 10.2 bWAR season in 1963 was second in the N.L. to the great Sandy Koufax and Ellsworth finished 19th in MVP voting. 20.5 bWAR for Ellsworth leads the No. 37 list. 1940s hurler Paul Erickson is second at 6.3 and Travis Wood third at 5.8. Above, I mentioned above that for pitchers, only their pitching WAR would be considered, but it should be noted that Wood had 1.8 bWAR as a hitter in his Cubs career.
38: Carlos Zambrano posted 37.7 bWAR in his 11-year Cubs career. Trailing Big Z: Lefthanded reliever Willie Hernandez (1977-83) posted 6.8 bWAR for the Cubs and Jaime Navarro had 5.6 bWAR in his two Cubs seasons.
39: Mike Krukow, who was better than you remember, had 10.0 bWAR for the Cubs from 1977-81. Jason Hammel is second in No. 39 with 6.0.