The Chicago Cubs’ bullpen woes this season are well-documented. But could they come to a close thanks to the recently-acquired Tommy Hunter?
Despite moving to a season-high 10 games over .500 in extending their winning streak to five games, the Cubs once-again received an unpleasant surprise in the ninth inning when Hector Rondon allowed a pair of runs.
Manager Joe Maddon has relied on a mix of Rondon, Pedro Strop and Jason Motte this year in the ninth innings after the former lost the closer job early on in the season. However, the former Baltimore Orioles reliever Hunter may be a more formidable answer moving forward.
It’s not even that formidable is the right word, even. Chicago just needs consistency.
This season has been damn-near Marmol-like in the amount of late-inning meltdowns we’ve experienced. And if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that we never want to get into Carlos Marmol territory.
Hunter closed out Chicago’s win on Saturday after Motte stumbled to open the ninth, and given his make-up, repertoire and experience, he may be the Cubs’ best option in the closer role moving forward.
The former first-round pick of the Rangers is limited in his ninth-inning experience. His personal best for saves in a single season is a mere 11; and that campaign is the only one in which he’s notched double-digit saves.
That being said, as we saw in his Cubs’ debut, he has some devastating stuff, including a fastball that hit 99 mph Saturday.
Combine that with some of his past numbers and you have reason to be optimistic about his chances of succeeding in the ninth inning moving forward.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
In save situations overall, he’s been nothing too spectacular, posting an earned run average in the mid-3.00s. But a closer look at some of the finer details are promising.
When faced with runners in scoring position, Hunter has limited opposing batters to a .237/.290/.369 clip in his career. With two outs and ducks on the pond, the right-hander has been even better – with opponents batting just .220/.267/.354.
I can’t help but be optimistic about his chances of succeeding, but that may be largely due to the fact that I’m desperate, as a fan, for any semblance of consistency late in ball games.
Hunter’s ninth-inning numbers aren’t good – and that’s putting it mildly. But playing for a contending young Cubs team may be the push he needs to take that next step and put his upper-90s fastball to good use closing the door in Chicago.