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Cubs Heroes and Goats 2017 biggest WPA countdown: No. 10

Carl Edwards Jr. had a pretty bad evening in Washington.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Carl Edwards Jr. He’s picked up a handful of nicknames. My favorite will always be the Stringbean Slinger. Many still call him CJ which was what he was known as through most of his minor league career and Carl’s Jr. after the burger franchise has a lot of traction too. Regardless of what you call him, you are talking about the enormously talented young reliever of the Chicago Cubs.

2017 was the first full major league season for the Cubs and it was in a word, a mixed bag. In his age-25 season, Carl appeared in the sixth-most games of any National League pitcher (73). He had a WHIP of 1.010 which while excellent, was actually down from his 2016 season in which he had a WHIP of 0.806. Carl had a 5-4 record and an ERA of 2.98 (ERA+ of 146 and FIP of 3.40). No matter how you sliced those numbers, he was very good. At times, he was great.

This list is going to look at some of the less glorious moments of Carl Edwards and as we look at the 10th-biggest negative WPA score of the year, we find the June 29 game in Washington. The Cubs came into this game at 39-39. That was par for the course prior to the All-star break as most often the Cubs were at or near .500. CJ came into the game to start the seventh inning. The Cubs were ahead 2-1 and Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Matt Wieters were the expected hitters. The Cubs had a win expectancy of 63.8%. Certainly not ready to put this one in the win column, but feeling good about things. The Cubs had dropped the previous two games to the Nationals and were hoping to hang onto a win in order to split the series.

Incidentally, the Cubs were banged up heading into this game. Jeimer Candelario actually hit a home run in the top of the seventh inning to give the Cubs the lead, his first major league home run in a game he started at third base. Mark Zagunis and Victor Caratini also appeared in this game. Albert Almora Jr. actually started this game, despite it being against a righthanded starter.

Carl worked a full count on Murphy to start the inning, but couldn’t put him away and Murphy drew an eight pitch walk to start the inning. At that, the Cubs win expectancy had dropped to 56.1% as the runner on first began turning the odds less in the Cubs favor. Anthony Rendon stepped in next and Carl ran a full count on him as well. Anthony Rendon hit Carl’s eighth pitch over the wall for a two-run homer and gave the Nationals the lead. That event alone decreased the Cubs chance of winning by a little over 35%.

Carl got Wieters to line out but then allowed a four pitch walk to Michael A. Taylor and that was it for CJ on the day. In all, he faced four hitters, walked two and allowed a home run. Taylor ultimately went on to score and so Carl allowed three runs while only recording one out. His ERA climbed from 1.72 to 2.56 in this game. 25 pitches thrown and only 11 of them were strikes. By the time Edwards had left the game, the Cubs only had about a 21% chance of winning the game and by the time the inning ended, their chance of winning was down to about 13.5%. In all, the Cubs chances of winning dropped about 43% while CJ was on the mound.

Those of you with great memories might remember that the Cubs actually won this game. That will literally be a tale for another day as the Cubs rally to win the game produced one of the top 10 positive WPA scores of the season and so much later in the winter, we’ll revisit this game.

I went back to Al’s recap and the discussion board following that game and found some quotes I’ll use. First Al’s from the column itself: “Sometimes I think C.J. doesn’t trust his stuff and tries to get too cute with hitters. If he locates his fastball well, it’s really pretty much unhittable (career before this game: 30 hits allowed in 72 innings).”

still miss the old barn said: “in retrospect…easy to be angry about pulling lester…but the way Edwards and the pen have been with leads…there was no reason to hesitate to go to them.”

And mickkelleher said: “I'm not sure Edwards was being "too cute"

He just could not locate his curveball, period. I counted only one of them as strikes, and the rest were not close.

I don’t care how good his fastball is—short of someone like Chapman, if batters only have to key on one pitch (that he basically throws at the same speed) it’s only a matter of time before they connect.

He was fantastic on Monday night because he could locate both of his pitches. Hitters had no chance.”

However you slice it, one of the most important tasks on the list of things to do for new pitching coach Jim Hickey is to work with Carl. CJ is tantalizingly close to being one of the best relievers in baseball. Statistically, he wasn’t far off, but he just can’t quite seem to put it all of the way together and at times loses some combination of his command and his confidence and he can unravel. Edwards is definitely one of the guys who can be a key to the 2018 season and beyond as he is under team control for some time and has elite stuff. But he’s going to need to continue to improve.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our look back our first column here detailing one of the worst performances by WPA of the 2017 season as Carl Edwards Jr. checks in at #10 for his June 29 performance against the Nationals. Next week, we’ll be taking a look at one of the starting pitchers when we look at the #9 worst performance by WPA of the Cubs season. Please leave me any comments or suggestions for improvement for this column moving forward.


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