Cubs are betting heavily that Jeremy Jeffress can keep anchoring the pen
Chicago Cubs: Jeffress has been relying on outs via contact
Jeffress is a fastball, curve, sinker, split pitcher. He’s done a pretty solid job throughout his career missing bats. He is not a huge strikeout guy, but he has been able to get them in his better years. So far his is getting a lot of outs on the ground and in the air. He has one walk so his command has been overall good. One thing that is very noticeable is that his velocity is a bit down.
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Through most of his career his fastball/sinker sat at 95-97 MPH. So far in 2020 he is mostly sitting in the lower 90s around 90-92 MPH. Last year when he struggled it had dropped a tick or two from where he normally was and now it has dropped a few more ticks. So, is that worrisome?
Well, it can be, but it is not a guaranteed death sentence. Jeffress last year when he lost a tick or two did sport the 5.02 ERA, but his FIP was 3.96, which can indicate the results did not quite match his quality of pitching.
It helps Jeffress that he is pitching to more contact in front of a very good Cubs defense, who is currently among tops in defensive metrics including Defensive Runs Saved.
On the other hand, it is pretty big these days to have your late-innings relievers feature swing-and-miss stuff with 95+ MPH fastballs. Kind of hard to imagine Jeffress will just find that 95+ MPH velocity again, so it will be important for him to keep locating and getting outs via soft contact. It is not ideal for that type of role, but it can work.