After the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in February, there were a lot of people opining that this could be the best rotation in baseball and maybe the best in franchise history.
It's the first week of August and we still haven't seen anything close to that level of production from the Cubs starting staff.
Yet things are starting to look up for this rotation.
On a day when Darvish finally delivered some good news about his rehab process, Kyle Hendricks' final line in the Cubs' 5-4 victory didn't look all that great.
But beneath the surface, it was another step in the right direction for "The Professor."
For the second start in a row, Hendricks did not walk a batter (though he did hit former Cubs farmhand Christian Villanueva twice). He gave up just 5 hits in 5.2 innings, but 4 of those batters came around to score.
He was also done in by an error of his own accord, throwing the ball into the stands on Travis Jankowski's tapper back to the mound to lead off the fourth.
Hendricks felt like he only really made two bad pitches and Joe Maddon was raving about the right-hander's stuff after the game.
"Did a lot of things that I'm trying to work on really well, just gotta stick with it," Hendricks said.
He also expressed confidence in his arsenal more, feeling more comfortable throwing the curveball and able to unleash his two-seam fastball with conviction.
At times Saturday, Willson Contreras looked to have trouble catching Hendricks' two-seamer cleanly because of the late movement.
"It was moving a lot," Hendricks said. "Really, glove-side, I thought I had good command with it. It's kinda what I've been trying to work on and not so much side-to-side action. I felt like I had more sink today.
"It just allows me to attack the strike zone a little better. Maybe now that I see it, I can trust it a little more, start using it more. But yeah, it's definitely the best it's probably been all year."
To borrow a phrase from Maddon, it hasn't been an oil painting for Hendricks this season, but he's really only had one bad month.
In five June starts, Hendricks carried a 7.03 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and walked 15 batters vs. only 18 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
In seven starts since the end of June, Hendricks has a 3.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and only 5 walks vs. 40 strikeouts in 40.2 innings.
The equation is simple: He's getting more swings and misses and not doling out free passes.
That's more like the Kyle Hendricks Cubs fans have become accustomed to — the Game 1 starter in the NLDS and the guy who pitched this franchise to the first World Series in more than seven decades.
The Cubs rotation hasn't been going out and tossing a bunch of shutouts or even notching many quality starts, but the positive vibes around the group are beginning to pick up some steam within the clubhouse. Whispers of a turnaround are getting a bit louder.
Jose Quintana had arguably his best start of the season Friday, the first time in 2018 he has not walked a batter. The results were good, but the Cubs were just as happy with how he got there, throwing his fastball with conviction for the first time in a while.
Mike Montgomery felt very encouraged about his start Thursday after trying out a new grip on his curveball and incorporating more of a slider/cutter into his repertoire.
Cole Hamels' debut could not have gone much better, as he struck out 9 and allowed just an unearned run in 5 innings Wednesday.
Then there's Hendricks' turnaround, Jon Lester playing the role of the steady veteran (12-4, 3.22 ERA) and good news on the potential return of both Darvish and Drew Smyly.
Since Quintana's rough first inning in St. Louis a week ago, Cubs starters have allowed just 8 earned runs in 30.1 innings, carrying a 2.37 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in that span. They've also walked only 6 batters vs. 28 strikeouts.
"We're definitely getting there," Hendricks said. "We're on the upswing. Q's been throwing the ball real well. Hamels' first start looked real good. Even today, I thought it was a little better than the line turned out.
"We gotta stick with what we're doing, kinda following Jon, just making good pitches, attacking the strike zone. It'll come, but I think we're definitely on the upswing right now."