The Cubs are not set to make the playoffs for a variety of reasons, but one of them is their record in extra-inning games (4-9). The Cubs lost two games in the tenth inning this past week. In extra innings, their hitters have slashed .191/.305/.371 (15% worse than league average), while their pitchers have allowed a .269/.409/.516 line to opposing batters (53% worse).
Part of this is due to bad luck, though the Cubs' odd bullpen struggles certainly play a part. After Saturday’s game, Craig Kimbrel is now the least valuable Cub of the season by fWAR (passing Daniel Descalso). Before Kimbrel was signed, Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek got many of the late-inning opportunities, and did alright, though not well enough to convince Cubs officials that the bullpen didn’t need reinforcements. Injuries to members of the bullpen have weakened its depth too, leading to situations like James Norwood pitching in the tenth inning.
Of course, you can’t deny the role luck has in one-run and extra-inning results. And to be clear, I love extra-inning baseball—it’s some of my favorite baseball to watch (more on that this offseason, maybe). This Cubs team, however, has not been fun to watch after the ninth inning.
Hey, look at this reliever
I’ve written about Tyler Chatwood before, but after what he’s done the last two months, I can’t resist writing about him again.
Since August 1st, Chatwood has the 24th-lowest FIP in baseball among relievers. The name right below him is Rowan Wick, who Chatwood has actually slightly out-pitched according to the advanced numbers.
According to Statcast, Chatwood has allowed “barrels” on only 1.9% of plate appearances this season, which is the 12th-lowest mark in the majors (the only Cub with a lower rate is Kyle Ryan at 1.6%).
On September 18th, Chatwood hit 99.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest mark of the year. He blew his next pitch by Eugenio Suárez at 99.0 MPH for a strikeout. Chatwood’s stuff has unquestionably played up out of the bullpen, and it was already superlative before. His sinker has the tenth-highest spin rate of any pitcher (minimum 100 pitches), his cutter ranks fifth, and his curveball ranks seventh.
Here he is striking out a lot of hitters: