by R. Lincoln Harris
At about this time last year, Travis Wood had one start left to make in St. Louis. He had nine wins on the season to that point, and I thought it would be a positive sign if he could make it to ten wins on the season. The Cubs didn’t have a double-digit winner in 2012, so I wanted to see one in 2013.
But winning the last start wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen. Wood was sitting at 199 innings on the season, and they wanted him to pitch one inning and come out of the game. Getting a pitcher to 200 innings trumped trying to actually win the game.That approach still steams me, when I think about it.
Travis Wood got roughed up in his designated one inning that night, and his ERA ballooned from 2.98 to 3.10. And there was the trade-off: The Cubs got their 200 innings out of Wood, but they lost his sub-3 ERA in the process. It was karma, in a way, for putting an individual’s stats above the team’s goal.
Last night, Jake Arrieta closed out the home schedule st Wrigley Field by notching his tenth win of the season. Finally, after 483 games of the Epstein/Hoyer era, the Cubs can boast a pitcher with ten wins in a season.
But the excitement of one ten-game winner leads to the realization that three such pitchers are needed for a team with designs on the playoffs. Assuming Arrieta can get to ten wins from this point forward, the Cubs will need to buy at least one, and more likely two, of baseball’s most valuable commodities.
They’ll have to not only outbid all other teams to acquire such starting pitching, they’ll have to do this while the hammers are swinging and the earth is being moved at Wrigley Field. I don’t know what a Jumbotron costs, but the Cubs could put up all the signage they want for the amount of money that a John Lester would want for just a season or two. And if you think the spending for one won’t impact the spending on the other, I have a video board I would like to sell you.
The Cubs just got a first-hand look at the two 20-game winners in the majors this season. In fact, they obliged both of them in winning their 20th game. No other team in the majors will have to suffer the indignity of serving up an opposing pitcher’s 20th win. And the Cubs did it twice within the span of four days.
It’s not an accident that the teams with the 20 game winners will be in the playoffs next week. Maybe Jake Arrieta or some other pitcher will win 20 games for the Cubs in the future. By that time, hopefully a 10 game winner won’t be such a big deal.
R. Lincoln Harris is a guest contributor for Wrigleyville Nation. He also writes for BlueBattingHelmet.Wordpress.com, ChicagoSideSports.com, ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com, and FiveWideSports.com. Thanks R. Lincoln for the contribution!