Carl Edwards Jr. has had an unusual ascent into Major League success. Or, well, that is to say the extent of his success this year looks unusual on paper, given how things were going over the past two years in AA and AAA.
As a former starter in both the Rangers and Cubs Minor League system, Edwards made a name for himself in many different ways. He was notably stingy in allowing home runs, had turned in elite strikeout rates, and was doing unusually well for a pitcher with such a slight frame.
But in his second go-around at AA Tennessee in 2015, as he transitioned into a relief role, the control issues started to creep up rather dramatically (17.0% BB-rate) and didn’t go away upon promotion to AAA Iowa (18.2% BB-rate).
After making a brief appearance (4.2 IP) at the Major League Level at the end of 2015, Edwards began the 2016 season back at Triple-A, where he once again struggled with his control (15.5% BB-rate). But then something strange happened – something nearly inexplicable. Once Edwards was promoted to the Chicago Cubs on June 22, his performance exploded, his walk rate sank like a stone, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Since June 22, Carl Edwards Jr. has posted a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings pitched, with even more impressive peripherals behind the scenes (1.97 FIP/2.35 xFIP). To achieve such dominance (both in terms of actual and expected results), Edwards hiked his strikeout rate up to an elite level (36.5%), while reining in his walk rate under 10.0%. Combine those rates with his .106 batting average against, and suddenly you’ve got a dominant pitcher in Edwards.
But it goes much deeper than that.
Petriello noticed Edwards’ stretch of brilliance and decided to do a little digging. What he found was not just an interesting factoid to support Edwards’ performance … it’s an extremely impressive (and even more encouraging) statistic that groups Edwards in with some of the very best in the game: in-zone contact rate.
According to Petriello, 464 pitchers have thrown at least 20 innings in 2016, Edwards being one of them. Among those 464 pitchers, here’s a list of the lowest in-zone contact rates in 2016:
- Edwin Diaz: 70.4%
- Carl Edwards Jr.: 70.7%
- Aroldis Chapman: 71.8%
- Sueng Hwan Oh: 72.7%
- Sean Doolittle: 72.9%
In case the point hasn’t yet been driven home by the names in his company, Diaz has the fourth lowest xFIP in baseball, Chapman and Oh are both top 5 relievers by WAR this season, and Sean Doolittle has been worth 6.3 fWAR through just 224.1 innings pitched in his career. And that list doesn’t just include relievers. Edwards is ahead of guys like Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.
There’s more to the story, too – including Edwards equally high-ranking/elite spin rate and how that has helped transform him into one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball – so be sure to check it out. When healthy, the Cubs bullpen is one of the scariest assortments of relievers in the game and Carl Edwards Jr. very quickly became a big part of that.