Ryne Stanek's secret weapon for the NL Central if signed by the Cubs

A deep dive into analytics to determine which remaining free agent relievers match up the best with Chicago Cubs division rivals.

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles
Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles / Rob Carr/GettyImages

Once I learned that the Cubs had an interest in Ryne Stanek this winter, I started noticing a trend that Jed Hoyer seems to be targetting split-finger guys who have had at least some success with the pitch. Hector Neris, whom they successfully signed, throws one. Not too long ago, the Cubs were eyeing Robert Stephenson, who also throws one. Stanek, you guessed it. The best part for the Cubs and Stanek is that he had a down season in 2023 and wouldn't break the bank to ink a deal.

This is a notable connection because all four Cubs NL Central foes are collectively awful against that exact pitch. Splitters are rare, but you can see what the Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds did with them in limited appearances a season ago. A few guys from the Cardinals can hit the pitch well, but only a small percentage of batters in the NL Central have put up solid numbers. Given that the Cubs play nearly a third of their regular season games against division opponents, Jed Hoyer can exploit this by targeting these hurlers, which he has been doing all winter.

The Chicago Cubs' interest in Ryne Stanek signals a deeper trend for the team .

As for Stanek's arsenal, he threw his splitter 18.2% of the time and allowed a minuscule batting average against of .189. It's not a coincidence that the Cubs want more split fastballs in their bullpen. It's been reported by the Cubs on Tap podcast that relievers Daniel Palencia and Luke Little are also working on splitters. They made a valid point of iron sharpening iron this year regarding Cubs pitching and learning new things from each other.

Adding another surefire splitter-thrower in Stanek to the bullpen gives the youngsters even more veterans to learn from. I strongly feel that if they do so, the Cub's relief numbers against the NL Central this season will be incredible.

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