How Jeffress Does It, Bullpen Strength Spread Around, and Other Cubs Bits | Bleacher Nation

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How Jeffress Does It, Bullpen Strength Spread Around, and Other Cubs Bits

Chicago Cubs

I listened to a podcast a couple years ago from ‘Stuff to Blow Your Mind’ on the theoretical possibility of microbial life living in the clouds above Venus’s otherwise inhospitable surface. It was really fascinating, and it blew my mind (hey, that’s why it’s called that!) to think about how some extremophiles on earth are living in almost equally implausible conditions, so why would it be impossible in the clouds of Venus?

AND NOW astronomers have actually found chemical clues that suggest, yeah, there really might actually be microbial life there. Basically, they found a gas there that is emitted by living organisms that exist in oxygen free environments, and we don’t currently have another known explanation for how that particular gas could be there. That doesn’t mean they’ve detected extraterrestrial life in our very own solar system, but it does mean what they’ve found is consistent with life, and they don’t (yet) have an alternative explanation. COOL!

•   In his bullpen piece – the one that set us up to discuss the Cubs’ young lefty arms at South BendSahadev Sharma and Tommy Hottovy also addressed something I’d noted here over the weekend about closer Jeremy Jeffress, and his extremely outsized good fortune this year. Here’s what I wrote about the huge spread between Jeffress’s actual results and the results you’d expect him to be getting based on walks, strikeouts, and quality of contact: “The highest spread on the Cubs? Gulp. It’s actually Jeremy Jeffress, who has the 8th largest spread in all of baseball, at 3.05. He’s posted a 1.00 ERA, but based on Ks, BBs, and contact quality, Statcast estimates his ERA should actually be closer to 4.05. The main reason is that the slugging he’s allowed (.140) is 228 points lower than expected, the second biggest spread in baseball. This is perhaps cause for considerable concern when you’re talking about your closer who doesn’t register a lot of strikeouts. For now, he’s getting outs on balls in play, and when he isn’t, they’re just singles. The metrics suggest that wouldn’t last forever. So the actual underlying performance is gonna have to improve a bit (which it might!), or he’s just gonna have to keep getting lucky.”

•   Sharma noticed the same thing with Jeffress, but Hottovy added a layer to the walk/strikeout concerns that I hadn’t really considered: “You can’t look at [a closer’s walk rate] out of context. For me, I’m never going to be overly concerned with the walks with backend guys unless they throw non-competitive walks. JJ’s are more competitive …. He understands how to limit damage, he understands how to pitch to weak contact and let our defense play. If he finds himself in an advantage count, he can be more aggressive. He’s a guy who understands who he is, understands what he’s trying to do and knows he can go for a strikeout when he needs to and also knows how to pitch to weak contact.”

•   In other words, Hottovy is suggesting that what the numbers don’t really show you is how Jeffress is approaching individual at bats given the context (of the game situation, the batter’s tendencies, the defense, and the count). For *most* pitchers, you don’t really fret about that stuff because it evens out and they are generally out there trying to avoid walks and net strikeouts. But if Jeffress is a guy who is so comfortable out there that he’s fine with giving up competitive walks while trying to induce crap contact (i.e., he’s not being wild, he’s just being intentionally nibbly in certain situations), and he’s able to go for a strikeout when the situation dictates, then maybe we’re looking now at an additional consideration on why the spread between his results and his expected metrics is so big (as it pretty much always has been for his career). It could also help explain why we FEEL like he just doesn’t get into trouble ever while watching him despite some walks and few strikeouts – because he’s letting the situation guide his performance, since he’s the rare guy who really can adjust like that.

•   Speaking of Jeffress and Rowan Wick and Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera and Duane Underwood, Jr. and Jason Adam … it increasingly looks like the Cubs could wind up with a bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason that has five or six really darn solid options. That could actually make this rumor a boon to the Cubs, as compared with bullpens that feature one or two super dominant arms that you could have ridden hard in a normal postseason setup:

•   With no off-days, you’re gonna need to use more relievers than you normally would in the postseason. Time was, you could simply make your very best two relievers pitch in practically every single game. Now, that won’t be possible, and more of your depth will be exposed. For the Cubs, they’ve got a 2.85 bullpen ERA over the last 20 days (second best in baseball), and that’s spread among a lot of guys having a lot of success.

•   Of course, the flip side is that you’d also have to use your full rotation, and for the Cubs, that, uh, is a little less compelling. Here’s hoping the past week for Alec Mills and Jon Lester is reflective of some corner-turning, rather than just flukey success. No, they won’t be no-hitter and whiff-crazy in every start going forward, but if they could be five or six solid innings guys? That might be enough to get the Cubs a win between one of them in a postseason series. Gonna need Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks to be absurd, though, and gonna need the bats to REALLY pick it up.

•   Speaking of which. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, shit:

•   MacBook Pros and BioFreeze are among your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   This is also an ad, because can sign up for Disney+ right here, but I also just reaaaaally want to share the new trailer for ‘The Mandalorian,’ which just dropped and it looks AWESOME:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.