Chicago Cubs: An interesting big-picture look at the season
Brought in to fix a rough end to 2017 (mainly, the postseason) filled with control issues, one of the first issues Hickey had to contend with was Tyler Chatwood doing his best Ricky Vaughn out on the Wrigley rubber.
While he didn’t seem to be able to do much (really, who would have?) for the right-hander’s control issues, Hickey was certainly able to help his pitchers overcome them in the grand scope of things. It seemed with the early issues of inconsistency and control problems for guys like Chatwood and Darvish, Hickey was an early candidate to be scapegoated for a poor pitching staff. In June, it might have even been questionable if he would be back with the Cubs in 2019.
But the Cubs pitching staff had something to say about that. After some time to work with their new mentor and adjust to what he was selling, Chicago pitchers settled in quite nicely, posting the fourth-best ERA in the first half and the seventh-best ERA in all of baseball after the All-Star Break.
Jon Lester, Carlos Quintana, Cole Hamels (you know, that guy who was terrible with the Rangers and somehow pitched like a 2009 version of himself once he showed up in Chicago), Kyle Hendricks and Mike Montgomery all had stretches of dominance in the second half.
Hickey was even able to help keep the bullpen afloat despite rampant overuse and a schedule that made it impossible for Maddon to keep guys fresh. They also threw 18 shutouts as a staff, a huge jump from just eight in 2017 – even without workhorse Jake Arrieta, who headed to Philadelphia in the offseason.