Chicago Cubs Playoff Preview: The Starting Rotation

Michael WagnerSenior Analyst ISeptember 30, 2008

The Cubs true strength of the Chicago Cubs coming into the post-season is the depth of their starting rotation with Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly.

Ryan Dempster has been the Cubs most consistent pitcher all season and is coming into the post-season looking good. Dempster has posted a 5-2 record with a 3.10 ERA over his last 10 games.

Dempster has also pitched well versus the Dodgers this season, in his two games versus the Dodgers he has pitched 15 2/3 innings and given up 4 earned runs. At home versus the Dodgers Dempster gave up only 1 earned in 7 1/3 innings.

The ace coming into the season was Carlos Zambrano and he lived up to that billing, for the most part. Zambrano has struggled at times during the season and has struggled mightily in his last two starts has given up 13 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Zambrano does, when his emotions don't get the best of him, have dominating stuff (see his no-hitter versus the Astros). If Zambrano can keep is emotions under control then he can be a dominating pitcher but if he doesn't stay in control it could mean disaster for the Chicago Cubs in Game 2.

The key acquisition of the Chicago Cubs this season was right-handed pitcher Rich Harden, who has been rather dominant in a Cubs uniform with a 5-1 record and a 1.77 ERA.

Harden has not had the control in recent games that he had possessed most of the season. In his final two games of the season Harden has walk 11 batters in 11 innings pitched but has only allowed 3 earned runs. 

Harden has the stuff of a number one or two starter but with the depth that the Cubs have in the rotation, he gets pushed all the way to game three which will only benefit the Cubs.

The final piece of the Chicago Cubs rotation is the lefty Ted Lilly, who has also been very good during the second half of the season. Lilly went 17-9 with a 4.09 ERA during the 2008 regular season and he was the number 3/4 starter on this team.

Lilly will be a good change of pace pitcher for the Cubs if the series makes it to game 4 because he is a far different pitcher from the other three in the rotation. Lilly doesn't bring the heat but does use deception in his pitches which will provide a completely different look for the Dodgers hitters.

The one area that the Chicago Cubs do not really need to worry about but if their starting pitching provides a sub-par performance then that could mean some big trouble for the Chicago Cubs and their World Series hopes.

Chicago Cubs Roster notes:

Lou Pinella revealed to day that Felix Pie will most likely be making the playoff roster.

He also revealed that it was likely that pitchers Kevin Hart and Michael Wuertz, OF/1B Micah Hoffpauir and catcher Koyie Hill will be sent to Mesa, Arizona in case of injury or need.

Also pitcher Angel Guzman, third baseman Casey McGehee and pitcher Chad Gaudin are likely to be sent home.