Chicago Cubs: Is Steve Cishek due for a regression in 2019?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Steve Cishek appeared in a career-high 80 games for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. Is he bound to regress in 2019, or was this more of the same for the sidearmer?

Steve Cishek was everything and then some for the Chicago Cubs in 2018.

Chicago signed Cishek, 32, to a two-year deal last offseason in a relatively low-key move. The sidearmer was coming off a stellar 2017 campaign that translated well on the North Side with the Cubs.

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Dependable arm in the Cubs bullpen

As his workload suggests, Cishek easily ranked as one of Joe Maddon‘s most relied-upon relievers. Not only did he make a career-high 80 appearances in 2018, but he also pitched a career-high 70 1/3 innings.

Despite his heavy workload, Cishek delivered one of the best seasons in his career in 2018. His 2.18 ERA was the second-best of his career, while his 1.04 WHIP was his third-best in a season since debuting in 2010.

Numbers aside, part of Cishek’s extreme value to the Cubs is the fact that he can pitch in numerous situations. Maddon deployed the right-hander as early as the fourth inning and as late as the ninth and extra innings.

Will the Cubs reliever be impacted in 2019?

A former closer, Cishek went 4-for-7 in save chances in 2018. With Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop expected back healthy in 2019, the Cubs’ bullpen will be even stronger with Cishek pitching in a variety of situations once again.

That is, assuming Cishek’s 2018 workload burden does not carry over and impact his performance in 2019. Cishek’s innings and appearance totals in 2018 are somewhat concerning. Prior to 2018, his previous career highs were 69 games and 69 2/3 innings, both in 2013 with the Miami Marlins.

The difference might not seem great, but an extra 11 appearances are no small number. Think about how the Cubs collectively began the 2017 season following their 17-game championship run in 2016.

This is not to say that Cishek will regress tremendously in 2019. After all, an extra 11 appearances are not equivalent to pitching through an entire postseason. Also, Cishek has only posted an ERA above 3.00 twice (3.17 in 2014, 3.58 in 2015).

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Until any regression happens, one should probably trust Cishek’s consistent career before expecting the worst. Based on his track record, the odds are that we see more good than bad from Cishek next season.