Chicago Cubs: Justin Wilson has been stealthily solid

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The 2017 trade deadline saw the Chicago Cubs ship one of their remaining top prospects off in exchange for more bullpen help in lefty Justin Wilson.

After a World Series victory in 2016, helped made possible by the blockbuster trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Windy City, the Chicago Cubs found themselves along a similar path last season after acquiring then Detroit Tigers closer Justin Wilson.

The goal was simple: acquire another big bullpen arm in a push for an October repeat. The Cubs brought in Wilson, sending Jeimer Candelario in exchange.  This plan, however, failed to shake out as it was supposed to.

More from Cubbies Crib

From Detroit’s hero to Chicago’s zero

From the time Wilson took over as the closer for the Detroit Tigers, he was nothing short of phenomenal. In 40 1/3 innings pitched after taking over, Wilson posted a 2.68 ERA, along with 13 saves, and an above average 3.47 xFIP.

Wilson posted a ridiculous 35.0 K-rate over the span, holding opposing hitters to just a .168 average and just a .210 BABIP. He also stranded runners on base 83.9 percent of the time.

That being said, unfortunately, Wilson completely fell apart following the trade. He saw his ERA balloon to an egregious 5.09, his strikeout rate decrease to 27.9 percent and his walk rate skyrocket to 20.9 percent. Seemingly every statistical category became a negative for Wilson. His BABIP also rose to .391. At least six separate times over that stretch, Wilson walked at least two batters while recording no outs or a single out. Less than stellar to say the least.

Wilson saw just two-thirds of an inning in last year’s postseason, as he did not factor into the National League Championship Series rematch versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and recorded no appearances.

Changing the narrative

Consequently, for as porous as last season finished for Justin Wilson, this season has started out extraordinary. The Cubs bullpen as a collective has been one of the best in all of baseball, as Wilson has found himself lost in the shuffle, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The shift came in mid-April. After an appearance versus the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he gave up  four earned runs, walked three and allowed two homers in just 2/3  innings pitched, the narrative began again that Wilson could not be successful. In like manner, that day was especially frustrating because Kyle Hendricks posted a Quality Start, giving the Cubs an opportunity to win the game until Wilson stepped in.

Something changed that day, however. Wilson found his groove and has not looked back since.

In fact, since that disastrous appearance, Wilson has pitched 20 1/3 innings, giving up zero home runs, striking out 32.9 percent of the batters he has faced and has a ridiculously low 1.33 ERA. Opposing hitters have just a .159 average against him, and runners find themselves stranded at an 87.5 percent clip.

Next: Shining a light on something larger than baseball

Credit where credit is due

Currently, concerning ERA, the Chicago Cubs’ pen boasts the third best earned run average in all of baseball, at 2.60. As a group, they have posted a very respectable 2.4 WAR, good for seventh in all of baseball.

That being said, in addition to guys like Steve Cishek , Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow have caused fans to seemingly  forget about Justin Wilson. Nevertheless for Wilson, he has become an unsung hero of sorts. All things considered moving forward, Wilson can continue to produce at a high level and be a contributing arm which helps springboard the Cubs back into the post-season.