Chicago Cubs: Brian Duensing deserves chance as set-up man
By Tim Stebbins
At this point in the season, Brian Duensing is one of the Chicago Cubs better options to pitch in the eighth inning as Wade Davis’ setup man.
Entering the 2017 season, the Chicago Cubs seemingly had an overabundance of relievers capable of setting up closer Wade Davis. Some have enjoyed more success than others, however.
Hector Rondon was the Cubs closer as recently as last season; now, he holds a 4.50 ERA in 54 innings pitched, including a 5.59 ERA in 21 appearances post-All Star break. Unfortunately, Rondon is not the only reliever to struggle in the second half.
Second-half struggles hampering Cubs bullpen
Carl Edwards stepped into the setup man position after posting a 0.00 ERA in 11 appearances in April. Like Rondon, though, Edwards has not faired well in the second half. In 38 first half appearances, Edwards posted a 2.29 ERA, a far cry from his 5.48 ERA in 24 appearances post-break.
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The Cubs gave up several prospects to acquire left-hander Justin Wilson from the Detroit Tigers. Wilson bounced back after a shaky debut with the Cubs. However, his 2.68 ERA with the Tigers is no where near his 5.84 ERA with the Cubs.
The sample size with the Cubs small, but Wilson has room for improvement, as do Edwards and Rondon. There is no reason to give up on the struggling relievers. However, the Cubs could make a change in the meantime until Rondon, Edwards and Wilson right the ship.
Duensing dominant all season
Brian Duensing has been an absolute force for in the Cubs bullpen this season, holding a 2.63 ERA in 60 appearances. In July and August alone, he posted ERAs of 0.00 in 11 games and a 1.93 ERA in 15 games, respectively.
Although the Cubs acquired Wilson to be their primary late-game lefty, Duensing might be the best option right now. Despite being left-handed, Duensing actually fares better against right-handed hitters (2.41 ERA) than left-handed hitters (3.00 ERA).
Using Duensing against righties would not necessarily put the Cubs at a disadvantage. Similarly, right-hander Pedro Strop has a better ERA against lefties (2.01) than righties (4.20).
Strop (4-4, 3.27 ERA in 59 games) has been one of the Cubs other most consistent reliever outside of Davis this season. With Strop and Duensing, the Cubs have two quality options for the eighth inning.
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Realistically, the Cubs will likely continue rolling with Strop as the team’s setup man. All in all, though, Duensing has exceeded expectations this season. At the very least, he should be the lefty that the Cubs use if holding a late-game lead, if not the primary setup man.