The Cubs starting pitching depth was one obvious area of weakness for the squad throughout the year. Although Matt Garza put together a good year and Ryan Dempster was a solid middle of the rotation starter, after that the rotation was a mess.
Entering Spring Training, the Cubs felt that they had plenty of starting pitching. However after Carlos Silva was traded before injuries to Andrew Cashner and Randy the first week of the season, the lack of depth became apparent. Carlos Zambrano ended up disqualified for the final few months of the season after an up and down year.
Casey Coleman, who probably should have been developing in Triple-A, made 17 starts and posted a 3-9 record with an ERA of 6.40. Rodrigo Lopez was picked up and made 16 starts, Doug Davis (1-7, 6.50 ERA) made nine starts and Ramos Ortiz was picked up for two starts. Out of desperation the Cubs stuck left handed reliever James Russell in a starting role, who clearly was not cut out to start. If the Cubs had started the season with more starting pitching depth, they would not have resorted to the likes of Russell, Coleman and Davis.
The 2012 season will start with a much larger quantity of starters on the squad. While last year's team started with just six players with starting experience (excluding Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol who were not starting options), this year's will have, at this point, 13. Matt Garza is penciled in as the number one baring a trade, while Ryan Dempster will be the number two. Young starters Randy Wells, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood will compete for spots in the middle and back of the rotation along with veteran lefty Paul Maholm. All six of these players are legitimate starting options, while Jeff Samardzija, Manny Corpas, Andy Sonnanstine and Rodrigo Lopez could be serviceable, along with the possibility of a more developed Casey Coleman bouncing back or a prospect like Chris Carpenter stepping up.
If the season started tomorrow, who would follow Dempster and Garza in the rotation? Do the Cubs have quality starting options? Feel free to comment with your thoughts!