During yesterday’s Pre-Gamin’ post, I mentioned that Eddie Butler would be taking the mound for the Chicago Cubs. And while at least one pitcher takes the mound for the Cubs during every game (duh), we obviously have a little extra interest in Butler, given his history and obvious potential.
In case you missed getting to know Butler (you should really read that first), the Cubs traded for him earlier this offseason when the Colorado Rockies finally gave up on his potential.
As a former first round pick and top prospect who couldn’t quite put it together at the Major League level, Butler reminds a lot of people of Jake Arrieta, when the Cubs picked him up from the Orioles. Although we are far (far, far, far) away from that actually becoming a reality, there are some eerily similar details in their pedigree and particular issues (check out this post for much more).
In the meantime, we just need to follow his new career with the Cubs with hope and a close eye, because so far … well, so good.
Among Butler’s biggest issues, you’ll find his weak K/BB ratio. In 2015, the year he threw the most innings at the Major League level, Butler’s walk rate (11.4%) nearly matched his strikeout rate (11.9%). He improved on that last season (16.0% K-rate, 7.2% walk rate), but that is still quite weak.
So before yesterday’s game, I noted that Butler will be looking to improve upon his two-walk, two-strikeout start to the Spring. And that’s exactly what he did:
By the end of the day, Butler struck out four Dodgers and walked none over four scoreless innings of work.
After also allowing just one hit in his start, Butler’s spring line is starting to look very solid: 10.0 IP, 4H, 2BBs, 6Ks; 2.70 ERA. It’s a small sample, of course, but batters are hitting just .114 off Butler, and his ERA trails only Kyle Hendricks for any Cubs with more than 6.0 innings.
And for what it’s worth, Butler seems to feel right at home with the Cubs.
“The guys here aren’t like, ‘Oh here we go,'” Butler said. “I don’t know if it was ever like that in Colorado. But it’s still that new feeling like all these guys have my back right now. They’re all Team Eddie. It’s great to get a new start. And everybody is pumped.”
Butler wouldn’t be the first player to note the (positive) differences emanating out of the Cubs’ roster and coaching staff, but it is definitely a good sign. If you recall, Arrieta has suggested that pitching coach Chris Bosio’s “do what makes you comfortable” attitude towards coaching was a big part of his success. Considering Butler’s particularly similar issues (cross-body delivery), I’m very encouraged by his remarks.
There’s still a long road ahead for Butler, though, as he’ll likely head to Triple-A Iowa to start the season. And after that, he’s still probably second in line for the rotation after Mike Montgomery (and Brett Anderson). But given the Cubs’ lengthy control over Butler (four more years after this season), he’ll have plenty of opportunities to break out in Chicago.