Being that first pitcher in extra-innings can’t be an easy thing. You’re thrust into a situation where not only is the game tied, but there’s a runner at second base and nobody out. It feels like “par” is letting only that one run score – it could happen despite recording a couple outs to begin the inning – but of course, that run still counts, and maybe you just set your team up to lose in the bottom of the 10th because you couldn’t pull off a birdie.
To that end, extra kudos to Codi Heuer for his performance last night, not only pitching a scoreless 9th inning, but then coming back out for the 10th and not even letting that runner at second move. After being uncharacteristically wild earlier in the week, Heuer bounced back with some of the best stuff and command we’ve seen from him. He was working the two-seamer beautifully at the top of the zone, and then dropping the slider down. The Reds could do nothing with him.
It was a continuation of Heuer’s success with the Cubs since the Craig Kimbrel trade. With the Cubs, Heuer has thrown an even 20.0 innings, posting a 0.90 ERA. Since the Trade Deadline, that’s the 9th best ERA in baseball among all relievers with at least 15 innings pitched. He continues to pound the zone (6.7% BB rate with the Cubs), though the strikeouts aren’t there yet (17.3% K rate). You can see that batters aren’t squaring him up, though, and he’s rarely gotten himself in trouble.
There are definitely some things in the peripherals that give you pause, so I don’t want to ignore them. The 83.3% LOB rate is quite high, and you tend not to get that much sequencing luck in the future without more strikeouts. The .182 BABIP is obviously tiny, and probably has some good luck in it, too. But on that latter one, I’d point out that Heuer’s contact quality with the Cubs is ABSURD. Consider that he’s got a microscopic 1.8% barrel rate, an equally tiny 21.4% hard contact rate, and a huge 25.0% soft contact rate. Has he “earned” a 0.90 ERA? Oh, probably not. But has he earned excellent results in large part by inducing terrible contact? Absolutely.
Next steps, you’d like to see more swing-and-miss coming back. Even if the contact quality stays strong, it probably won’t stay THIS strong, and more balls will probably find holes. There’s a reason most late-inning relievers are bat-missers rather than contact-managers. It’s important to remember that, far from being a finished product upon the trade, Heuer was a guy with just 61 big league appearances over about six big league months of action. He’s 25 and still developing, so there’s plenty reason to be optimistic about what we’ve seen so far from him.