Jeremy Jeffress was a breath of fresh air to the Cubs bullpen in 2020.
When Craig Kimbrel faltered as closer, Jeffress took over the role and did very well with it, posting eight saves in nine chances. He allowed runs in just three of his 22 appearances and had solid overall numbers: 1.54 ERA, 0.943 WHIP.
Some of his peripherals are a bit concerning. His walk rate was up — 4.6 per nine innings — and his K rate, 6.6 per nine innings, was the second-lowest of his career.
But he got outs when he needed them, generally, so what’s the big deal about not striking guys out?
Per Fangraphs, Jeffress’ fastball velocity in 2020 was about what it was in 2019, 93.3 miles per hour. That’s a tick down from his previous level of 95+, and as a result he relied less on the fastball than at any previous time in his career, throwing it just 41.5 percent of the time. His out pitch became a splitter, which he relied on for 33.3 percent of his pitches; the rest were curveballs.
Jeffress also became a good veteran presence in the bullpen, helping to mentor some of the younger pitchers, per manager David Ross:
According to Ross, Jeffress has mentored the Cubs’ young relievers all year. He showed them how to pace themselves before being called into a game: get loose when you might be needed but wait for the second phone call to get “all the way hot.”
“I’m definitely a hands-on type of guy,” Jeffress said, “because I pay attention to the game a lot. I pay attention to details.”
Between good performance — he was injured in 2019, accounting for his poor year — and his on-the-mound results in 2020, I think it would be worth bringing Jeffress back. He’s 33, and obviously his fastball isn’t going to get any faster going forward, but he appears to have found a solution to that in the splitter.
The most Jeffress has made in any one season during his career is $3.175 million, from the Brewers in 2019, the year after he made the All-Star team with a 1.29 ERA/0.991 WHIP/3.3 bWAR season. Incidentally, even in the abbreviated 2020 season, Jeffress posted 1.2 bWAR.
Two years, $5 million, I think would do it. What say you?
Should the Cubs re-sign Jeremy Jeffress?
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