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What the Cubs need to succeed in 2022 is better pitching

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The numbers make it clear.

The Cubs’ best starter is not having a good year
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I was struck by these numbers posted in the comments yesterday by BCBer JohnW53 (and thanks, John!), team numbers before and after the selloff at the trading deadline. I’ve updated them to include Wednesday night’s game:

BATTING
Before: .227/.308/.398, 4.21 runs/game, 7.36 hits/game, 1.24 homers/game, 3.08 walks/game, 9.20 strikeouts/game

Since: .238/.291/.398, 4.27 runs/game, 7.97 hits/game, 1.23 homers/game, 2.23 walks/game, 10.87 strikeouts/game

PITCHING

Before: 4.17 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 4.51 runs/game, 7.94 hits/game, 1.32 homers.game, 3.79 walks/game, 8.76 strikeouts/game

Since: 6.50 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 6.67 runs/game, 10.07 hits/game, 1.80 homers/game, 3.10 walks/game, 7.67 strikeouts/game

It’s perfectly clear where the problem lies. The new Cubs offense is averaging slightly more runs per game than before the selloff, with more hits though fewer walks. But the pitching — ugh. All the numbers are worse except walks.

Granted, we are talking about fewer than one-third as many games: 104 pre-selloff, 30 since. Still, the trends seem fairly clear.

The Cubs are currently “auditioning” Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson for the 2022 rotation. The results have been mixed; Steele was excellent Wednesday, not so good other times. Thompson’s sample size is pretty small.

It seems clear that Zach Davies will not return to the Cubs in 2022. Thus the only pitchers guaranteed a rotation spot are Kyle Hendricks and Alec Mills. Hendricks can be considered a No. 1 (if he’s having a usual Professor season, which this year he’s not) and Mills a No. 5.

So the Cubs need to find three pitchers who will slot into the rotation at 2 through 4. It’s possible Steele and Thompson could be two of those guys, and so could Adbert Alzolay, but those three might also profile better as relievers.

Then there’s the bullpen, which has had some good outings from guys like Manuel Rodriguez and Rowan Wick, but also had some bad blowups. As is the case for the starters, auditions of a sort are being held from now through season’s end.

I’ve already posted a couple of articles in which I suggested the Cubs sign Alex Wood and Robbie Ray to start, and reunite with Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera. Some of you didn’t care for those ideas.

So I’m throwing this open to you. How would you revamp the Cubs pitching staff, both starting and relieving, so it could compete in 2022? The team will spend money, I am certain of it.

Have at it.