Crazy Statistic: The Chicago Cubs Would Win 116 Games If They Only Started Rookie Pitchers

Daniel Shirey. Getty Images.

This can be as hard or simple as we want to make it. Personally I prefer the simple. 

The point is easy. The Cubs are unnaturally good in rookie starts this year, which has been a lot. About 40% of games started have been by rookies. 

The team’s record? 


That’s a .714 wining percentage, equal to 116 wins over a full 162-season, which would tie the 1906 Cubs for best all time.

I offer the above for context. Nothing more or less. I merely want you to understand just how good they’ve been so far. 

Ben Brown delivered again last night with 7 hitless, scoreless innings alongside 10 strikeouts. On the year, he’s surrendered just a .548 OPS against in 46.1 innings with 55 strikeouts against just 32 hits. That’s because his curveball is grading out in the top 1% of the league. And even with all that, the Cubs are 3-3 in his 6 starts. 

Afterwards (or before) you’ve got Shota Imanaga’s historic start - the best in MLB history through 9 games. The next closest is Fernando Valenzuela’s rookie debut, which was so good that you’re not really allowed to compare anyone to him.

In all ways, Shota is the exception. 

Somehow, someway, a 92mph four-seam fastball from an undersized lefty is objectively the best pitch in baseball. A lot of that is because of spin rate and what the hitter expects vs. what the ball actually does. And a lot is tied to the deception and command across the delivery. But nowhere along the way did anyone expect him to be this good: 

9 starts. Team record: 8-1. 53 innings vs. 58 strikeouts and 9 walks. 5 total earned runs for a 0.84 ERA and just 3 HR’s. The peripherals/advanced suggest it’s legit. The FIP is league low. The ERA+ is league high. Groundballs, flyballs, strikeouts. The whole fuckin bag is in play with this guy while the league stumbles over another 2-pitch Cubs’ rookie. 

Mix in Jordan Wicks and minor league sensation Cade Horton, and you could easily argue that Jed Hoyer has seamlessly stacked a rookie staff for the history books. That’s everything we’re seeing right now and there’s quite literally no reason to doubt where it goes. 

There’s plenty of other issues, much like any other team. We’re injured, inconsistent and often powerless. Baserunning is atrocious and the defense look like an Aramis Ramirez/Soriano team. There’s no shortchanging how shitty this team can be when they want to be shitty. They’re special in that respect. 

But the hard stuff is finding quality, healthy innings that don’t cost $25,000,000 a season. That’s the biggest challenge any baseball team has to face and the Cubs apparently have that all mapped out (right now). 

I don’t want to sit here and blow smoke when we can’t put two fuckin hits together. And I don’t want to inflate false confidence only to be let down by relief pitching and Seiya’s oblique health. 

The reality is that it’s such an impossibly long season to think straight in a given moment. Just last night I was pontificating Ben Brown’s trade value in the middle of his 7 no-hit innings for no other reason than we need more power in the lineup and he’s probably the most valuable trade chip. 

Ask me tonight and I’ll say we need to extend BB. Tomorrow he could the centerpiece of something special. Next week we’ll need another 6 scoreless. On it goes, the carousel of finding happiness as a baseball fan. 

Alas I resort to one last simple truth. Where the Cubs go from here. What the lineup does and how much we over/underperform… a lot of baseball to be played and judged. Whatever the outcome, nobody better be bitching about Jed Hoyer finding starting pitching. Not when the rookies are 15-6 in late May.