Chicago Cubs have a long-term weapon on their hands in Carl Edwards Jr.
During the postseason, the Chicago Cubs had no idea what Carl Edwards Jr. would provide when he toed the rubber. But let’s think bigger picture.
Carl Edwards Jr., who many may forget pitched in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, in arguably the most iconic inning in Chicago Cubs history: the 10th inning, was either on or off. He was not in between in the 2017 Cubs postseason run.
Fans and sports media criticized him more than any other Cubs reliever, which led to more questions to Joe Maddon as a manager.
To me, that is silly to think about. Didn’t the Cubs just win the World Series a year ago? As I write this on November 3, it’s been a year and a day since that memorable and emotional day for Cubs fans.
Needless to say, it’s a bit of an overreaction if you ask me. Let’s look back on Edwards Jr’s first complete season in the majors.
A lights-out first half of the season
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For as much as the fans and sports media pointed out the Cubs bullpen problems in the postseason, the bullpen was the Cubs strong suit in the first half of the season.
The offense mightily struggled and the starting pitching was lucky to go five innings most days if Jon Lester was not pitching. At least that’s what it seemed like.
A bullpen that at the back end that basically kept the Cubs in games after their starters failed to go deep into games was one of the best in the National League.
Edwards played a big part in that. Going into the All-Star Break, Edwards posted a 2.29 ERA in 35 1/3 innings. He held hitters to a .127 batting average, had a 0.96 WHIP and produced a 36.2 strikeout percentage.
This was all mostly in high leverage, late inning opportunities. However, there were times Maddon would insert him in games earlier depending on the situation with runners on base. He was considered the set-up man for Maddon’s squad, though.
Edwards, Wade Davis, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop and Brian Duensing were the stars of the bullpen that, if you think about it, saved the Cubs season. The Cubs entered the break two games under .500. It could of been much worse if they were unable to do their job.
Struggles down the stretch
The Cubs overall finished the season with the third best bullpen in the National League, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Edwards, however, started seeing consistency problems. His BB/9 increased to 5.52 compared to 4.84 in the first half of the season and his ERA increased to 3.77. A lot of teams would take that, but the eighth inning became harder and harder to watch more often than not.
Still, despite Edwards’ stuggles, he managed to keep his job as the set-up man. Maddon believes in his players and knows what they’re capable of. What I believe really hurt Edwards, was Justin Wilson unable to keep Maddon’s trust. Wilson was given numerous chances to pitch in the eighth inning because he was traded for to be in that spot. There were few positive spots for the lefty after he came over to the Northside.
Because of that, Maddon leaned on Edwards more. It didn’t hurt the Cubs fully, as they still won the NL Central Division, but it proved costly in the postseason.
Wilson made the playoff roster in the NLDS, but not in the NLCS. So, far he’s been a disappointment. Because of his shortcomings, Edwards saw more pressure situations than anyone else.
And like I said in the beginning, he just could not throw strikes consistently enough.
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Thinking big picture
For the season, Edwards finished with a 2.98 ERA, 94 strikeouts to 38 walks, 1.01 WHIP and left runners on base 78.3 percent of the time. For basically a rookie, the Cubs will take that. His future is very bright. Don’t let that force you to believe the front office doesn’t need to do anything to sure up the bullpen, though.