When the Cubs traded away a Major League ready prospect like Jeimer Candelario plus another high-ceiling, middle-infield type in Isaac Paredes at the deadline last season, they obviously expected big things from the return (catcher Alex Avila and and reliever/closer Justin Wilson). And although the former played well and filled in admirably when the Cubs lost both of their catchers late last season, the latter struggled … a lot.
In fact, if you recall, Wilson was left of the NLCS roster altogether last October, because, frankly, he couldn’t throw strikes. But unlike Avila, the Cubs had another year of control over Wilson, so there was still hope to salvage some value out of his arm this year and that has, indeed, been the case.
With one out to go before he hits the 50.0 innings pitched threshold, Cubs left-hander Justin Wilson has earned a 2.90 ERA (3.43 FIP) and 0.6 WAR. He still has a walk rate over 14%, but his strikeout rate remains over 30%, and opposing hitters have not been able to strike the ball with much authority off him (27.4 hard%). On top of that, he’s been particularly effective against left-handers, who’ve hit just .184/.287/.307 off him this season, while striking out 35.6% of the time. That is one very usable pitcher.
But this is all slightly beside the point I’m getting to today, which is … Justin Wilson has been exceptionally good lately, and has actually been quite strong for quite a while.
Consider than the lefty has not allowed a single run over his last 7.0 innings (August 7th) and has …. *trumpets blast* …. not walked a single batter during that stretch, despite striking out 8! For a normal reliever, that would be still be solid news (seven scoreless, 8Ks, 0BBs is good no matter what), but for Wilson, the extra command is pretty freakin’ awesome, considering everything else he provides. But we can stretch the awesomeness streak much further than that.
Since the beginning of July, Wilson has allowed just four earned runs (2.30 ERA) on 5 walks (7.7%) and 18Ks (27.7%). Obviously, that strikeout rate fell a little, but it’s still quite good and that walk rate is obviously night and day from what we’ve come to expect from Wilson, the Cub. Just look at the graph from the beginning of 2017 until now.
That’s not the sort of roller coaster you want a reliever to ride, but at least he’s back on the ground, right?
And for the final kicker of a cutoff date, consider that since getting blown up in Pittsburgh just six games into the season, Wilson has had a 2.49 ERA (2.73 FIP), a 30.6% strikeout rate and a 12.2% walk rate over 43.1 IP. For a little reference, Craig Kimbrel has posted a 2.50 ERA over 54.0 IP this year, and has a 3.30 FIP, far higher than the 2.73 mark Wilson posted after just one bad outing very early in the season.
The walks still are and probably always will be a bit of an issue, but The.Dude.Has.Been.Good.
(Now you can fully expect him to get rocked tonight in Milwaukee because curses.)