Chicago Cubs: Pitching could be this team’s biggest strength in 2018

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Getting the ball in the ninth inning

The final position group that is left to be assessed could well be the most critical to a team’s ability to win games, particularly close games. Comparatively speaking, the NL Central is not known for its great closers, but, truth be told, the division actually features a very impressive stable of firemen. Ranking closers is no easier than ranking the other pitchers, but similar to how unique position groups like catchers are assessed, understanding closer value requires a review of some very specific information.

To this end, the table below provides supporting information that informs on key closer attributes: control of the strike zone, ability to minimize solid contact (measured through FIP and comparison to FIP and ERA), ability to prevent home runs (always unfortunate in a late game situation), previous experience as a closer and overall contribution to team success (as measured through WAR).

Figure 10: Closer Comparison

A dream scenario, to be sure

I will admit it, this one is tough for even me to swallow. While smart money has Morrow being a solid closer – particularly if he continues to dominate as he did in 2017 – this just doesn’t feel right, at least not at first. However, the more you think about, the better sense it does make. Iglesias, Knebel, Rivero each have only one full season under their belts as closers, so their experience isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of where Morrow is. While Morrow wasn’t asked to close games out, he certainly did pitch in some very big situations, so it stands to reason he will be able to handle the pressure aspect.