Cubs

Carl Edwards Jr., self-actualized

Carl Edwards Jr., self-actualized

Carl Edwards Jr. may be coming into his own.

We've said that before. We've thought that before.

But after the way the 26-year-old reliever has started the 2018 campaign, it's impossible to ignore that Edwards may finally be putting it all together.

After carving through the heart of the Cardinals order Tuesday night, Edwards now has 15 strikeouts in 8 innings this year to go along with his 1.13 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

Edwards was shaky in his first couple outings in Miami, but has surrendered only 4 baserunners in his last 6 innings while whiffing 12 batters since leaving South Beach.

Much of that success can be attributed to a better understanding of who he is as a pitcher and trusting his stuff in his second full big-league season.

"It's just getting older, I guess," he said. "More repetition. Just being here more is what I feel like has helped me. Going out there and telling myself, 'I have seven other guys behind me that could help me out.' And not try and strike out everybody or put pressure on myself."

Edwards talked a lot about not putting any added pressure on himself and credited the Cubs veteran relievers with setting a good example for how he should approach his role each time his name is called.

The mental part of the game is something every young player has to maneuver and Edwards was no exception, getting too fine with his pitches last season and working around the zone instead of attacking hitters.

"Being in this game longer and longer, sooner or later, you know what you need to do to go out there and get outs," Edwards said. "I feel like I know what it takes to get outs. Go right at guys, don't try to nibble, don't try to be perfect because nobody's perfect. Just go out there and have fun."

His hits allowed are up, but he's still at an elite level (5.6 H/9) and that will also come down quite a bit given he's been pretty unlucky on balls in play. Edwards has surrendered a .357 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) thus far in 2018, almost double his career mark (.196) and significantly higher than the 2018 MLB average BABIP (.287).

Edwards actually should have better numbers. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) — which attempts to strip away all the factors not in the pitcher's control — is 0.43, ranking sixth in baseball among relievers behind guys like Aroldis Chapman, Kelvin Herrera, Chad Green and the red-hot Adam Ottavino and ahead of such pitchers as Edwin Diaz and Josh Hader. For perspective, the league average FIP is 3.93.

Let's dive even further:

Among all MLB pitchers with more than 2 innings, Edwards ranks third in swings-and-misses, contact percentage and zone contact percentage. 

Meaning: Edwards is right up there as one of the hardest pitchers to hit in the game. Even when he does throw the ball in the strike zone, opposing players can't seem to make contact.

It's a small sample size, sure. Everything is right now in the middle of April.

And Edwards has a history of quick starts. Through his first 8 innings of 2017, the flamethrower did not allow a run, permitting only 1 hit and 3 walks. But he also struck out only 8 batters in that stretch.

When asked about all those swings-and-misses, Edwards shrugged it off as just "luck" and was sure to point to how baseball typically evens out.

But that won't necessarily happen here. Edwards has always had incredible, unhittable stuff. His problems in the past have been tied to walks, handing out free passes before giving up hits.

If he's truly understanding how to pitch within himself and limit those free passes, watch out.

That's all that stands between Edwards becoming one of the game's true elite relievers.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Giving Thanks to the Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Giving Thanks to the Cubs

In this Thanksgiving-themed episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Tony Andracki discuss what they're most thankful for relating to the Cubs (1:00), with responses ranging from the upgrades at Wrigley Field to the hiring of Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.

Then, in a nod to Black Friday, our panel debates the best deals the Cubs have ever made (7:10), including trades for Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Jake Arrieta and more. Plus, Kap tells us how Harry Caray came to be the Cubs announcer after many years with the White Sox (15:00).

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: