Chicago Cubs: So what exactly went wrong for Carl Edwards Jr.?
With a little deeper understanding of exactly where Edwards Jr. struggled last season, we can really dive into how he attacked hitters differently – and, perhaps, decipher some key takeaways that he (hopefully) takes into 2019.
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The right-hander is known for his lively fastball – and with good reason. When he’s painting corners, opponents have little chance of squaring anything up. But instead of relying on that pitch in 2018, he turned away from it in a big way – throwing it 10 percent less than in 2015 and nearly six percent less than just one year prior.
And the numbers bore witness to a staggering decline in the pitch’s effectiveness – despite his not losing much velocity on it. In the Cubs’ World Series championship season, his fastball had an 11.2 wFB (Fastball runs above average). In 2017? That climbed to a career-best 12.5 wFB. But last season, it dropped to an unsightly 4.7 mark.
In 2017, opponents took a cut at 59.8 percent of pitches in the strike zone. That number rose to 66.7 percent last year while they cut down how many chase pitches they swung at by a full three percent. In short, he went from slightly above league average in getting guys to swing at balls outside the strike zone to roughly league average.
Perhaps most importantly when looking at these swing rates is the results. Yes, guys swung at more pitches in the strike zone (taking hacks at roughly two of every three pitches) – but it’s what they did with said pitches that’s so worrisome.
In his career, Edwards carries a 40.4 percent groundball rate. But in 2018, that number dropped down to just 28.9 percent. Simultaneously, his fly ball rate lept up to 43.8 percent – an increase of seven percent year-over-year. Opponents’ ability to get the ball in the air – and his maddening inability to find the zone under pressure – cost him dearly, especially down the stretch.
There are a lot of takeaways from Carl Edwards Jr.’s 2018 performance. While the overall body of work was solid – he must find a way to dictate the zone more effectively, get more balls on the ground and limit the self-inflicted damage. Otherwise, his showing in the upcoming season may prove to be just as volatile as what we bore witness to late last year.