Cubs think Carl Edwards Jr. can be impact pitcher for stretch run


Cubs think Carl Edwards Jr. can be impact pitcher for stretch run

ST. LOUIS – All that matters now is the Cubs think Carl Edwards Jr. can help them win games in a pennant race.

The pitcher formerly known as C.J. had been a good underdog story, from his humble roots (Prosperity, South Carolina) to his afterthought draft status (48th round in 2011) to his skinny frame (6-foot-3, 170 pounds).

But the Cubs wouldn’t have summoned Edwards to Busch Stadium on Labor Day if they didn’t think his plus stuff would translate from Triple-A Iowa and give their bullpen a different dimension.

“I kind of threw that (away) a long time ago,” Edwards said after making his big-league debut in a 9-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. “Just because I was a kid (who) wanted an opportunity.

“I got my opportunity. I got my foot in the door. And it’s all up to me now to dictate what my future holds for this game.”

Edwards kicked the door down by striking out 369 batters in 292.1 career innings in the minors, emerging as a wild card for a playoff contender.

[MORE: Kyle Schwarber wants to return for Cubs-Cardinals showdown]

In front of a sellout crowd (45,986) – and his parents who had flown from South Carolina on an airplane for the first time – Edwards walked the first batter he faced (Tony Cruz) on five pitches. Manager Joe Maddon accurately described Edwards as “a little nervioso.”

Edwards settled down and got a double-play ball and a grounder to second base to finish a scoreless eighth inning: “What a great way to come into the league and face one of the best teams in baseball – the best team in baseball right now.”

“It definitely plays,” Maddon said. “It’s all there. We’ll give him a chance to get out there, probably (in) a less-than-high-leverage moment. (But) he’s that kind of a talent that can be impactful now, going into October.”

Edwards turned 24 last week and recently celebrated the birth of his baby girl. The right-hander had worked almost exclusively as a starter until this season, beginning the year as Baseball America’s No. 38 overall prospect, working out of Double-A Tennessee’s bullpen and pitching in the All-Star Futures Game.

“I’m going to take it all in and you never know what could happen,” Edwards said. “I’m excited to be here – especially with a great group of guys (willing to) take a young guy like me (in).

“As soon as I got here, they told me: ‘Look, bro, this is how it works. We’re not going to lead you wrong. We’re just going to put you out here (in a position to succeed). Just have fun. Keep doing what you’ve been doing.’

“It took some wind out of me, so I could actually breathe, look around and have confidence going out there.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Edwards raised his profile after that Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers in 2013, emerging as one of the bright spots for an organization that has struggled to internally develop pitchers in the minors.

Edwards has command issues that might be exposed at this level after putting up 39 strikeouts against 24 walks in 31.2 innings at Iowa. But in a season where the Cubs have fast-tracked so much young talent, Edwards will get his chance in The Show.

“I’ve been asking about him all year, because he’s the kind of kid I think can be a really good major-league pitcher,” Maddon said. “The biggest thing is just how quickly he adapts emotionally to the whole thing.”

Nothing has been handed to Edwards, who has already demonstrated the kind of inner confidence, mental toughness and natural ability you need to survive in pressure situations.

As Edwards said: “It doesn’t matter how I got here – as long as I got here.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Schwarber, Baez on night to remember at the Home Run Derby

Cubs Talk Podcast: Schwarber, Baez on night to remember at the Home Run Derby

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull spoke with Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber after an electric and entertaining Home Run Derby in Washington D.C.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Who Knew? Cubs at the All-Star Break

Who Knew? Cubs at the All-Star Break

With a break in the action, let’s take a look at the season so far.

Today, I’ll focus on the first 57.4% of the Cubs’ 2018 season. Which is to say, the 93 games before the All-Star Break. Clearly more than “half.”

In all seasons with an All-Star Game (1933-present, minus 1945)

This is the fifth time the Cubs have had the National League’s best record at the All-Star Break.

Here is the entire list (note – 2016 is NOT on this list. They trailed the Giants by 3 games at the Break in 2016):

1937 44-25 +2.0
1969 61-37 +5.0
2001 51-35 +0.5
2008 57-38 +4.5
2018 55-38 +2.5

Which is incredible since:

• Anthony Rizzo has a wRC+ of 100, which is league average

(he was at 131 – 31% better than league average - through the All-Star break last season)

• Kris Bryant has missed 23 games and has only 10 home runs

• The Cubs as a team have 30 fewer Home Runs through 93 games than they did last season

(100 this season, 130 last season)

• The Cubs have had six pitchers make 8 or more starts this season and only one (Jon Lester – 2.58) has an ERA under 3.90

• Cubs pitching has an MLBhigh walk percentage of 11.0%

(Tyler Chatwood’s 9 starts with 5 or more walks is most in a season by a Cubs pitcher since Dick Drott’s 13 in 1957)

• Cubs have outscored their opponents by only one run in the first inning (5251)

This includes being outscored 18-13 in the first inning in Kyle Hendricks’ 19 starts

• Cubs are 57 against the Reds

(they were 27-11 against Cincinnati in 2016-17)

That being said, it's not so incredible since...

• The Cubs have scored at least 10 runs 15 times this season. No other team has done it more than 12 times.

• Jason Heyward has a wRC+ of 109 (he’s 9% better than league average)

This is notable because in 2016 he was at 71 (29% worse than league average) and 88 in 2017 (12% worse than league average).

• The Cubs have EIGHT qualified players with at least a .340 OnBase pct. (and Ian Happ, who is eight PA short of qualifying, is at .379)

The only qualified Cub with a SUB-.340 OBP is Javier Báez (.326 – a career-high). However…

• Javier Báez has 50 extrabase hits in 91 games. Last season he had 49 extra-base hits in 145 games.

Báez is the first player in Cubs history with 15 Doubles, 5 Triples, 15 HR and 15 Stolen Bases before the All-Star Break**.

Báez is the first player in MLB history with 18 Doubles, 6 Triples, 18 HR and 18 Stolen Bases before the All-Star Break**.

**seasons with an All-Star Game – 1933-present (minus 1945)