The Cubs opening day rotation is set with news that Randy Wells and Travis Wood have been optioned to AAA. That left Jeff Samardzija and Chris Volstad to join Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm. Using our playing time projections and the average projections berselius has posted over the last month or so we can find out just how good (or bad) the opening day rotation is. There are other innings that will be pitched by starters, but these are our projecting innings pitched and we're standing by them. They look pretty decent to me.
- Matt Garza: 3.0 WAR
- Ryan Dempster: 2.4 WAR
- Paul Maholm: 1.8 WAR
- Chris Volstad: 1.1 WAR
- Jeff Samardzija: -0.4 WAR
That's a total of 7.9 WAR from the opening day rotation. It's a projected 823 innings. Over a course of a full season, starters typically pitch around 940 innings while the bullpen chips in around 505. So there's a little over 115 innings remaining to be pitched by the Cubs rotation. Those innings are likely to go to a combination of starter with Randy Wells getting the bulk of them.
To answer the question of how good the rotation is, they're a bottom third rotation. Some will say that WAR projection for Samardzija is unfair, but it's the projection. If you want to make some adjustments, go for it, but there are other things to consider too. Maholm had a terrible season last year. He lost something on his fastball and coming back from injury he may be no better than he was a year ago. Chris Volstad could easily be closer to replacement level.
Last year the Cubs paid roughly $40 million for their opening day rotation. This year they're paying them about $34 million. Considering the decline in production we expect, there's really no difference in the amount they're being paid.
Last season the Cubs got 8.8 fWAR from their opening day starters and two of them went down after their first start. Wells did return and threw 135 innings. The bulk of that WAR was from Garza and he and Dempster combined for 7.8, which is equal to what the 2012 Cubs are expected to get from their rotation.
With the remaining 115+ innings we could probably add up to another 1 WAR. That would give the Cubs a total of 8.9 WAR from their rotation this coming season. Last year they ranked 24th in baseball with 9.5.