Already without Brandon Morrow for roughly a month, the Cubs’ closer situation took another hit yesterday. While it may not be a significant issue, Pedro Strop has been diagnosed with a “mild right hamstring strain” according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (click here for the article). In that article Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon was quoted as saying:
“According to the MRI, it was like barely noticeable, so we don’t think it’s going to be anything horribly long,” Maddon said. “But we don’t know for sure. We’d like to think we’re going to be able to get him ready for the beginning of the season. If not, maybe shortly thereafter.”
Of course hamstrings can be tricky, and if he tries to return too quickly he could suffer a setback and be sidelined longer than expected. That leaves us to wonder, where will the Cubs turn if Strop isn’t ready for Opening Day? There are a few options, though there’s a good chance no one steps up and assumes the role outright:
Carl Edwards Jr.
Over 159.0 innings in the Majors he owns a solid 3.06 ERA, and was at 2.60 last season. There’s no questioning the strikeout stuff (11.60 K/9 in ’18, 12.28 for his career), but that’s where the positives stop. Control has never been a strong suit, and over the past two seasons he’s posted BB/9 of 5.16 and 5.54 (4.3 over his minor league career, 6.9 at Triple-A).
Last season saw his groundball rate plummet to 28.9%, though he yielded a 0.35 HR/9. Does anyone expect that to continue? Control problems + Risk of home runs? That’s never a combination anyone looks for from a “trusted” closer.
The 32-year old veteran right-handed has posted ERA of 2.01 and 2.18 over the past two seasons (115.0 total innings). He also showed enough in all three skills we look for:
- Strikeouts – 9.98 K/9
- Control – 3.58 BB/9 (he’s generally be around a 3.00 throughout his career)
- Groundballs – 47.3%
He also benefited from an 84.0% strand rate and .238 BABIP, and we all know how unstable relief pitchers can be. While he has a history of closing and the numbers would support giving him a shot, it’s easy to envision the luck turning and him struggling.
Brach had been forced into the closer role for Baltimore, though he was never an ideal candidate… Or is that just perception? He owns a career 9.51 K/9, and while the strikeout rate was down last season (8.62 K/9) his 12.3% SwStr% supports a better mark.
He also has at least decent control (4.02 BB/9, though 3.42 after being sent to Atlanta) and enough groundballs (46.0%). The big problem last season was bad luck, especially in Baltimore (.371 BABIP despite a 32.0% Hard%).
Given his recent success in the role, he may be the “best” bet to get an opportunity to step in. That’s not a ringing endorsement by any stretch, but if you are desperate for saves he’s the best roll of the dice.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference