In retrospect one of the biggest problems the Cubs had for most of 2019 was the lack of a reliable closer. It was clear early in the season that the Cubs lacked a shut down arm in the bullpen leading them to sign one of the best closers in the business, Craig Kimbrel in June. However, even with that three-year, $45 million deal, the late innings were a rollercoaster for fans. In fact, eight players other than Kimbrel wound up with saves for the Cubs in 2019, so on the eighth day of Cubsmas I wanted to take a closer look at the Cubs bullpen woes.
Strop will go down as one of the most reliable relievers in Cubs history but 2019 wasn’t his best year. He threw 41⅔ innings for the Cubs. His 4.97 ERA was by far his worst in his time in Chicago and only slightly worse than his 4.53 FIP would predict. He had a couple of stints on the injured list and despite having the second most saves on the team (10) he also had the most blown saves - six.
The Cubs sidearm pitcher threw 64 innings for the Cubs in 2019 with an ERA of 2.95, however his FIP of 4.54 indicates that ERA was a bit lucky. He also struggled to close down games, blowing four saves and saving seven.
Wick was a nice surprise for a Cubs bullpen that struggled a lot. He threw 33⅓ innings that were progressively higher leverage and notched two saves for the Cubs in 2019. As the season went on it was clear that Joe Maddon trusted Wick more than most of his other arms in the bullpen. His 2.43 ERA was right in line with his 2.82 FIP. He’s under club control until 2025. He’s one of three players on this list who didn’t blow a save.
Chatwood was supposed to be a part of the Cubs starting rotation through 2020, but a weird inability to find the strike zone in 2018 led to him seeing most of his innings out of the bullpen in 2019. And let’s be really clear, he was OUTSTANDING out of the bullpen. He threw 22 2⁄3 innings as a starter with a 3.97 ERA and a 4.76 BB/9. In 54 innings as a reliever he had a 3.67 ERA and a 4.16 BB/9. Oh, he also had two saves. One was more traditional, on May 25 Chatwood threw a clean inning to save a game v. the Reds. The other was a three inning finish against Milwaukee on August 4.
Kintzler put together a nice season for the Cubs despite a rocky September where he sported a 6.23 ERA. He was one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen but the fact that he was in a position to save any games at all was problematic. He saved one and blew two others while posting a 2.68 ERA and 3.56 FIP.
Mills made more of a mark as a possible starting option for the Cubs than he did in the late innings but on September 13 he notched a three inning save against the Pirates in that wild Friday the 13th game that the Cubs wound up winning 17-8.
The Cubs picked up Phelps from the Blue Jays at the trade deadline in an attempt to shore up what was clearly a weak spot. He threw 17 innings for the Cubs amassing a 3.18 ERA although that outperformed his 4.39 FIP by over a run. He got the final out in the Cubs August 5 victory against Oakland for his lone save with the Cubs and blew two other saves. The Cubs declined to pick up his option for 2020.
Webster threw 11 innings with the Cubs in 2019 including the final out of a 15-inning marathon against the Diamondbacks in April. The Cubs had taken a three-run lead in the top of the 15th only to give two of those runs back in the bottom of the frame. Webster came in for the final out and his only save of 2019. He did not blow any saves.
On the eighth day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me: eight saves from non-closers, seven epic bat flips, six walk off wins, five games out of the playoffs, four Alec Mills starts, three Nico homers, two fWAR from Castellanos and a David Ross for manager.