Chicago Cubs News: Mark Leiter Jr. had sneaky solid value in 2022

Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

Not much was thought of Mark Leiter Jr. when he made his Chicago Cubs debut in April 2022, which ended up being a rough seven-run start against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Leiter Jr., 31, son of former MLB pitcher Mark Leiter and nephew of former MLB All-Star Al Leiter, was signed by the Cubs to a minor league deal prior to last season. He had not pitched in the Majors since 2018, spending 2019-2021 recovering from Tommy John and bouncing around several organizations.

His 2022 MLB stats, 35 games, 3.99 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 4.29 FIP, 3.62 xFIP, 9.7 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 in 67.2 innings pitched.

It was a particularly rough start for him, as he posted a 5.01 ERA and 4.88 FIP in his first 15 games. Seemed like he would not last too long in the Majors. Four of those first 15 games included starts, in which he posted an 8.16 ERA and .636 slugging against. Those would be the only starts he made all season.

However, Leiter Jr. found a groove as an effective reliever who could go multiple innings. In his final 20 appearances (26.1 innings) he posted a 2.39 ERA, 3.38 FIP, .181 average against, 29 strikeouts (9.9 K/9), and 49.2% groundball rate. It is worth noting that as a reliever the entire season (31 appearances), he posted a 2.87 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, and 3.30 FIP. Those are some darn good numbers.

His work as a reliever, particularly in the final two months, lowered his initially brutal-looking season stats to pretty solid. The strikeout numbers in particular stand out as he had done a very good job missing bats. He did not blow smoke by hitters, throwing his fastball around 90-91 MPH, but his splitter was particularly effective. Per FanGraphs his splitter pitch value in runs above average was 7.8, far and away the pitch of his with the highest value.

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Leiter is currently on the 40-man roster (pre-arbitration). While easy to gloss over him remembering how ugly it started, Leiter Jr. was sneaky good after the bad start and for the time being, has a shot to be part of the team in 2023. The question will be if the 31-year-old righty can maintain success with the splitter, seeing as he is not a high-velocity guy. As of right now, his performance will say he deserves a shot to pitch in the bullpen next year.