Washington Nationals: What to Watch For in Upcoming Cubs Series
By Grant Thomas
Battle Of Starting Rotations
The Cubs’ 25-man roster has no glaring weaknesses from top to bottom. The pitching, while not made up of staples other than Arrieta, Jon Lester, and maybe Lackey, gets the job done time and time again. Chicago’s pitching is second in the MLB in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a stat the takes into account walks, home runs, strikeouts, and hit batters per inning and churns it into one stat. It can be read just like ERA; a 2.68 ERA is fantastic just as a 2.68 FIP is.
It’s big brother, xFIP, factors in the number of home runs that should’ve been allowed given the number of fly balls allowed and a league average HR/FB%. The Cubs are second in this stat as well (according to Fangraphs)
This is my new favorite pitching stat because (1), it reveals a rotation’s — or individual players — talent in a much clearer manner than ERA or W/L does. It takes errors and the speed and arms of infielders and outfielders out of the equation. (2), the Nats are the best in baseball in xFIP!
By taking into account league average and regression to the mean, xFIP is the best barometer of current and future pitching performance. The Nats, Cubs, Mets and Dodgers are the best in both stats this year.
This is key. Why? The Cubs’ and Nats’ starting pitching staffs can’t get much better. xFIP has a consistent track record, and it tells us that what we’ve seen thus far is what we are going to see once playoff time arrives. Therefore, all the focus is on the offenses and bullpens.
An eye-opening Chicago stat is its run differential; it’s an insane +162) as of June 12. The Nats are third in this category with a +76. The Cubs lineup has it all, and has shown remarkable consistency. Its 5.37 runs per game is good for third overall in the league, and the team is 7-3 in its last ten with 58 runs scored.
It’s tough to stop a lineup like that without a lot of luck, even with a league-leading xFIP. Therefore, I’m going into this series with the same mindset as the last. While wins would be nice, it’s important to focus on the two things that have to be done well against a team this good.
Next: Offense Needs To Continue