Chicago Cubs: New pitching coach Hickey hoping to leave a mark on staff

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

In the whirlwind of the offseason coaching moves, the Chicago Cubs are hoping coach Jim Hickey brings a fresh touch to staff. His resume suggests he will.

Change can be a good thing. It can even be great. Nonetheless, change is difficult for most anyone. And, the Chicago Cubs are making changes on the coaching staff. Out with Chris Bosio, and in with new pitching coach Jim Hickey. The relationship Hickey built with Joe Maddon during their time in Tampa Bay was stronger than a tractor beam from the Death Star. Drawing attention from several teams, the Cubs landed their target.

With the new addition, the pitching staff should not take a dip in performance. As a team, the Cubs finished seventh in the MLB in ERA (3.95). Tampa Bay, with a younger staff, lacking the names Chicago boasts, was eighth. In most stats, the Rays trailed the Cubs by only a position or two. It is safe to say Cubs will be in a good place in 2018.

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Hickey has experience with some of the most prominent pitching names in baseball. Roger Clemens. Andy Petite. Roy Oswalt. All of these players were with Hickey in Houston in 2004-2005, making it to the team’s first World Series. Certainly, he can do the same with the Cubs.

But what does it really mean?

First and foremost, signing Hickey brings more stability to the dugout. While little is truly known, some believe Maddon and Bosio did not see eye-to-eye on things. Bosio is credited with rebuilding the arm of Jake Arrieta and bringing along Kyle Hendricks and Carl Edwards. However, there are concerns over other projects on the staff. With Hickey on board, any tension in the dugout should lessen.

Secondly, the likelihood of Arrieta returning decreases. The Cubs do have the funds to sign the former Cy Young winner, but his “guy” is no longer on the coaching staff. Can Hickey earn the respect of Arrieta? Possibly. But, odds are Arrieta walks away. Still, with Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Hendricks still on the rotation, the Cubs rotation is solid. One can hope signing Hickey also means acquiring a top pitcher from Tampa Bay. Twelve-game winner Alex Cobb is a free agent and would cost around $15 million to sign. Or, could there(finally)  be a trade for Chris Archer?

The one area the Cubs hope Hickey helps is the bullpen. Last year, Tampa Bay ranked second in the MLB in saves with 53 total. After Justin Wilson faltered with the Cubs, and the rest of the bullpen being inconsistent, will Hickey have enough to pull the talent together? If the Cubs want to win in 2018, they need reliable performances from the pen.

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While I never really liked the phrase “those that can, do; those who can’t, teach,” it appears to be the case with Hickey. No, he never pitched in the majors. But, his pupils have done well.