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The 12 Days of Cubsmas: 4 Alec Mills starts

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Mills pitched well enough to earn a shot at the 2020 rotation

Alec Mills throwing in the second inning against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In retrospect, one of the turning points in the Cubs 2019 season was when Cole Hamels went down with an oblique injury at the end of June. It left a hole in the rotation that the Cubs struggled to fill throughout July, led to Hamels pushing himself to come back from the injury a bit too soon and honestly you can see the difference in his half season splits:

Cole Hamel splits by half 2019

Half IP ERA K/9 BB% K% Avg. FIP xFIP
Half IP ERA K/9 BB% K% Avg. FIP xFIP
First 99.2 2.98 8.76 8.5 23.5 .234 3.59 4.09
Second 42.0 5.79 9.86 10.2 22.4 .315 5.29 5.08
Select pitching stats Fangraphs

This created an opportunity for nine different pitchers to start for the Cubs over the course of the 2019 season. While Adbert Alzolay’s starts got the most press, Alec Mills’ starts were by far the most impressive. With Hamels signing with the Braves It looks like Mills will have a chance to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation in 2020.

So today, on the fourth day of Cubsmas, I wanted to take a closer look at Alec Mills’ stats in 2019 and specifically his four starts for the Cubs.

Mills put up the following numbers for the Cubs in 2019:

Alec Mills 2019 MLB stats

S/R IP ERA K/9 BB% K% Avg. FIP xFIP
S/R IP ERA K/9 BB% K% Avg. FIP xFIP
Starting 20.0 2.7 11.7 6.9 29.9 .250 3.56 3.86
Relieving 16.0 2.81 9 7.7 24.6 .207 4.96 4.14
Select stats Fangraphs

Between Triple-A and MLB he threw 130 innings in 2019, and 142 innings in 2018. According to Brooks Baseball he throws a 90 mile per hour four-seam fastball with natural sinking action about 35 percent of the time, a 90 mile per hour sinker about 23 percent of the time, an 81 mile per hour change up about 17 percent of the time and splits his remaining pitches between a curve and a slider.

July 16 vs. the Reds

Mills made his debut on July 16 v. the Cincinnati Reds. He had a rough first inning allowing three runs after getting two outs but settled down after that. He struck out six and threw six complete innings on only 81 pitches [VIDEO].

July 22 vs. the Giants

Mills’ debut was impressive enough that he got the next start when his turn came up in the rotation. This was by far his worst start. While he only gave up two runs against the Giants he was hit hard and only lasted 4⅓ innings before being pulled at 76 pitches. While this performance didn’t merit a highlight video he did strike out five.

September 20 vs. the Cardinals

This was one of the absolute heartbreakers the Cubs dropped to the Cardinals during their final homestand, but it was not Alec Mills’ fault. Mills was outstanding giving up only two hits in 4⅔ innings. He struck out six and walked two on 81 pitches while giving up no runs. You can see Mills getting Harrison Bader to chase a slider in the fifth inning [VIDEO].

September 27 vs. the Cardinals

Mills’ most impressive start came in St. Louis the last week of the season. He threw five innings on 91 pitches while striking out nine and walking only one. He only gave up one run and earned the win to keep St. Louis on the edge of their seat as the season came to a close. You can see all nine of those strikeouts here [VIDEO].

Mills isn’t a power arm, but he has good stuff and his K/9 of 10.5 was second only to Yu Darvish among Cubs starters last year and given the lack of moves the Cubs have made this offseason I imagine we’ll see him every fifth day at the start of the 2020 season.

On the fourth day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me four Alec Mills starts, three Nico homers, 2 fWAR from Castellanos and a David Ross for manager.