Cubs

What's the issue with Wade Davis right now?

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USA TODAY

What's the issue with Wade Davis right now?

Wade Davis is still having a perfect season.

Let's get that out of the way right now. 

The Cubs closer is 23-for-23 in save chances and despite some hiccups lately, has always found a way to get the job done.

But he's also shown he's mortal, giving up eight runs over his last 16.2 innings dating back to June 11. In that time, Davis is also allowing nearly two baserunners an inning on average, surrendering 18 hits and an alarming 12 walks.

Davis suffered the loss Thursday in The Willson Contreras Game when he gave up a pair of homers to Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez in the top of the ninth. Two days later, Davis walked a pair of batters before striking out Bryce Harper on his 30th pitch to end the game and halting a three-game losing streak.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes a 30-minute rain delay might've contributed to Davis' problem Thursday, when he gave up two homers in a relief outing for the first time in his career.

But even apart from that outing, Davis has looked off over the past couple months after boasting an 0.84 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in his first 22 appearances.

"I just think he's trying to be too fine early in the count," Maddon said. "He can throw a strike whenever he wants to. I've always felt that way about him. And you can see it. His stuff's the same.

"He's just a little bit off with the relief point. You can constantly see him trying to figure out at the end of his delivery. But I've always seen that. This is nothing new for me with him. I have a lot of faith in him."

Maddon has known Davis since the lanky right-hander came into the league in 2009 as a starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon thinks maybe Davis is reverting back to that starter's mentality and trying to be too perfect early, subsequently falling behind 1-0 or 2-0 consistently.

Davis, however, scoffed at that notion.

"No. Not even close. There's never any time where I'm trying to be too fine with anything," Davis said. "Sometimes you just go through slumps, I guess.

"I'm never trying to be too fine. I'm always trying to pitch aggressively in the zone. Sometimes it just doesn't go there."

Davis is a cerebral guy who is always thinking and adapting along with the game. He compared his issues right now with a hitter going through a slump at the plate — just the natural ebb and flow of baseball.

"Just different timing," he said. "Earlier in the year, my stuff wasn't as good, but my timing was really good. Now, my arm feels strong and better, but my timing is off from time to time."

Davis said he's had this kind of issue every year of his career, but also typically gets stronger as the season goes along and his arm feels better now than it did even in April and May when he had a 0.00 ERA.

But all along, whether he's going good or bad, Davis is the exact same guy. Same temperment, same body language, same mood. 

"He's mellow, man," Maddon said. "That's who he is. You talk to him as he's coming off the field after the game's over and he's barely breathing. That's just who he is.

"He's a very calm player. He's always been that guy from spring trainings to the middle of the season to shooting a black bear in Toronto."

That calm demeanor has helped Davis become one of the elite closers in the game. Even if the tying run is 90 feet way, he has the same level of confidence in his stuff and abilities.

He also doesn't pump his fist after big outs or nailing down clutch saves. He maintains an even keel in the middle of the road.

"I try to," he said. "As soon as you think you're good, then you get your ass kicked. And when you're going bad, you're not nearly as bad as you think you are.

"You wanna be in your own shoes, stay in your own lane."

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship Series — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

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USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.