Chicago Cubs: What does the future hold for pitching coach Jim Hickey?

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The offseason is well underway and, still, the Chicago Cubs are yet to finalize their 2019 coaching staff under soon-to-be lame-duck skipper Joe Maddon.

We thought the biggest question regarding the Chicago Cubs 2019 coaching staff was answered when Theo Epstein announced manager Joe Maddon would return as skipper. Between that and the dismissal of hitting coach Chili Davis, the first few weeks were tumultuous, to say the least.

But, just as we felt things were quieting down in terms of the staff, the rumor mill is once again picking up steam. This time? It’s pitching coach Jim Hickey.

Evaluating his first season with Chicago

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In his first season as the Cubs pitching coach, the numbers look somewhat stable under Hickey.  The Cubs ranked second in National League with a 3.65 team earned run average.

Jon Lester had an All-Star bounceback season in 2018. The veteran established himself as the ‘true ace’ of the Cubs’ starting staff, going 18-6 with a very respectable 3.32 ERA in 181 2/3 innings.

Kyle Hendricks also had a solid season, despite a sub-par first half. He wound up leading the staff with 199 innings pitched, en route to a 14-11 record and 3.44 earned run average.

After Cole Hamels was acquired from the Rangers, it felt like he was reinvigorated. He went only 4-3 in his 12 starts with the Cubs but pitched to a sparkling 2.36 ERA. In short, he saved the team’s season down the stretch. 

Not so good?

Okay, with everything good there’s always things that aren’t so good.

As much it pains me to say it, we’ve got to look at Tyler Chatwood once again. Face it, he was terrible, and that might still be an understatement. In his 20 starts, Chatwood went 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA, 1.804 WHIP and a league-worst 95 walks. The right-hander earned a demotion to the bullpen in July in favor of Mike Montgomery and only made four more appearances from that point until the season’s end.

Carl Edwards Jr. was also another project that didn’t go too well under Hickey. It felt like the lanky right-hander lost the ability to control any of his pitches down the stretch. By season’s end, it became painful to watch because Hickey and Maddon continued to place him in high-leverage situations he couldn’t seem to get out of.

What happens next?

Look, the Cubs lost Yu Darvish for basically the entire season and closer Brandon Morrow for a good chunk too, so we’ll have to see what happens in 2019 with the two of them (hopefully) returning to 100 percent.

However, the team’s pitching staff had a solid year as a whole. Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and others performed well under their first-year pitching coach.

Next. Here’s the latest on free agent Bryce Harper. dark

In closing, I think Jim Hickey stays put. The fact of the matter is that the biggest downfall of this team wasn’t the pitching. The Cubs, simply put, didn’t hit. Period. The pitching was a strength of this team and I don’t see why Hickey should be punished for it.