Carl Edwards Jr has done nothing but exceed expectations since the Chicago Cubs called on the young righty to solidify their bullpen push last season.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times, Edwards has one goal for his 2017 season, make the All-Star team.
"“He can get anybody out. He’s got that kind of stuff,” said manager Joe Maddon. “You saw what he’s capable of, and you saw the confidence we had in him at the end of the year pitching in the seventh game of the World Series.”"
Last year, Edwards was used primarily as a right-handed specialist, but both righties and lefties are hitting sub-.200 against him. Righties are slashing .107/.238/.460, though Edwards has given up more home runs and walks to them. Edwards has held righties to a .133 Babip batters in the other box recorded a .229. This suggests righties have a hard time making contact with Edwards’ pitches, though neither can claim much success against him.
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Lefties are slashing .167/.259/.483 against the young hurler with just nine hits in 39 games. Edwards also recorded a 4.50 K/BB ratio while facing nearly 45 percent less lefties.
During the regular season, Edwards averaged 12.9 K/9, third-highest behind former Cubs Joe Nathan and Aroldis Chapman. His 0.81 WHIP was the lowest among Chicago’s everyday relievers. Edwards was also the only other reliever to earn more than one save in 2016, behind Chapman and Hector Rondon.
His postseason numbers don’t measure up to his regular season success, but that is to be expected of a young pitcher. Edwards pitched 6 1/3 total innings, giving up five hits, two earned runs and four walks in eight appearances. His K/9 dropped significantly to 5.68, while his WHIP rose to 1.42.
It’s important to remember that this was Edwards’ first crack at the MLB playoffs. As he gets more experience, it’s highly likely that Cubs fans will see his postseason numbers begin to look more like his regular season stats.
In high-leverage situations last season, Edwards held opponents to a .133 BAbip, inducing a groundball from 73.3 percent of batters faced. In 102 pitches, batters only made hard-contact 6.7 percent of the time while striking out at a 26.1 percent rate.
Overall, Edwards dominated batters in high-leverage situations, holding them to a 0.95/.175/.150 slash line in 6.1 innings of work. Edwards allowed just two hits while striking out six. Those two hits produced four runs, however, which explains his 5.68 ERA. Considered against Edwards’ 2.20 FIP, it seems that the Cubs defense could do more to help the 25-year-old pitcher out.
One area Edwards needs to improve on is how he handles having runners on base. In 11 2/3 innings in 2016, he gave up 11 earned runs, two home runs and six walks even though opponents slashed .108/.233/.314 against him. Edwards’ 4.63 BB/9 and 1.53 HR/9 ratios will need to taper off if he is going to become a go-to choice in the back of the Cubs bullpen.
Edwards also needs to improve on his numbers at Wrigley Field. He faced 72 total batters in the Friendly Confines last year, giving up 12 hits, 12 earned runs and three home runs. His opponents’ consistently low slash line suggests that, like any professional, they are making Edwards pay for his mistakes. A quick look at his pitch f/x shows that opponents hit 50 percent of their home runs off of Edwards’ curveball.
But, if Edwards can learn to throw that pitch with more control, it will take his game to another stratosphere.