The Cubs are receding into the collective background of our shared consciousness. This is not without merit, the Cubs were eliminated from postseason play with a loss to the Brewers and will (hopefully) narrowly avoid another 100 loss season. There are some things we would do well to evaluate over the closing months of another rebuilding year, one of the more intriguing being Scott Baker.
Baker was brought as a free agent flyer, one of the many broken arms that the Cubs brass decided to roll dice on. Predictably the gamble did not pay out, Baker’s rehab from Tommy John surgery went longer than expected. The primary concern with Baker on the comeback trail was his lake of velocity:
@MRubio52 He was 86-87 at kane (assuming that gun was accurate), so that’s an encouraging sign.
— John Arguello (@CubsDen) September 8, 2013
Earlier than that Baker was struggling to hit 85 with his fastball. In 2011, before he was injured, Baker sat 91-92. Pitchers tempt fate if their velo drops much lower than that.
Today, Baker did this:
Baker did an ok job of mixing speeds and his 2FB looked like it had decent run and sink. He missed only two bats in 55 total pitches, but his arm stayed intact and he showed good velocity early and maintained it to a degree into the later innings.
We’re looking to the future around these parts, and I wonder if Baker is a good candidate for a starting spot next year. Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson are the three no brainers to make the rotation next year (pending trade, that is). The final two spots are up for a bit of contention.
Jake Arrieta is a combustible commodity. He’s pitched adequately this year but he has a history of running into awful starts. Chris Rusin has surprised during his audition which could bolster his case and make him a lock if he pitches well in the spring. Carlos Villanueva is likely better served coming out of the bullpen. Villanueva did well to start the year in the rotation but he faded quickly and was moved to the ‘pen shortly after.
The free agent market is weak in arms and it doesn’t look like the Cubs will be spending money in any case. We’ll have to see what Baker does over the next month. If his arm stays intact I think he would be a decent option to earn a rotation spot in 2014. Baker does own a career 19.2 – 5.6 SO% – BB% ratio.
Keep an eye on his starts and recovery.