The Chicago Cubs Kyle Ryan has been stellar out of the pen, and he’s good against either lefties or righties. Who would have seen that coming?
Show of hands. Who thought the Chicago Cubs Kyle Ryan would impress you as he has? No one? Exactly. Ryan came from the Detroit Tigers and didn’t see the major leagues in 2018. But here he is pitching magnificently out of the bullpen. He’s not alone, but he’s critical to the staff.
In 2018, Ryan didn’t pitch for the Cubs. He was relegated to Iowa, and that’s where he would stay all season. He didn’t even get called up for September, although the lefty was deserving. In 22 games (8 starts) he compiled 66 innings for a 2.86 ERA. But he didn’t get the call. Maybe next year.
He did get the call, and he hasn’t looked back. Ryan has a deceptive delivery where he seems to leap out on left-handed hitters. What’s more impressive is that he’s good against right-handed hitters, too. He’s limiting left-handed hitters to a .226 batting average. But he’s just as good on righties allowing a .237 batting average.
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In Detroit, they were bringing him up to be a starter. But like the former Cub Jeff Samardzija, when he was called up the big club, he didn’t get the choice. Samardzija asked to be a starter and was a pretty good one at that. In 2015, Detroit tried to pitch him out of the bullpen. He’s found his calling out of the pen. In 2016 he threw entirely out of the pen with the Tigers and had solid numbers.
He pitched to the tune of a 3.07 ERA in 55 2/3 innings, allowing just two home runs with a SO/9 of 5.7. He struggled mightily with an ERA of 7.94 in eight games before he was sent down the Triple-A. He never made it back to the majors until 2019 with the Chicago Cubs.
Now he’s in ‘Maddon’s circle of trust.’ To be honest, Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brandon Kintzler and Steve Cishek may be the only current members. While he’ll pitch Craig Kimbrel when he’s available in the ninth, I don’t think he trusts him, not yet.
But think to the beginning of this year, and would Ryan be in your circle of trust? Not likely. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, doesn’t strike a lot of guys out. With RISP he’s allowed a batting average of .209 with a slugging percentage to match. He’s a guy you can count on–and I didn’t expect him to be.