Edwards’ Erratic Performances Point to Huge Post-Season Bullpen Challenges

Somehow, according to MLB.com, Carl Edwards Jr.’s ERA is a mere 1.80 in his last seven appearances. This, assuredly, does not tell the story of the lanky young right hander’s recent awfulness. I’ve been playing closer attention to the reliever these last two weeks, and he’s a strong example of the sometimes misleading nature of statistics.

It is a running joke at home between my husband Bob and I that Edwards is only bad when I’m looking. My spouse, a rabid Cubs fan and huge proponent of numeric measurement, believes that a career ERA under 3.00 points to looming greatness. However, that confidence has been mightily tested over the last fortnight. Edwards has put 10 extra men on the bases in 15 games. Most egregiously, he has done so with the bags somewhat to almost full, giving the lie to that old Earned Run Average. Most of the runs that have followed from Edwards belong to the dude who came before. He’s been undependable at home vs. the Mets, in Milwaukee, and as of last night’s very disappointing loss, Washington D.C.

Every pitcher has a bad outing, even a cluster of them, but what makes it hardest (at least for me) to overlook Edwards volatility on the mound is his ego and lack of personal responsibility. It is said that in certain moments, people show you who they really are as a teammate. Instead of humility and determined resignation, Edwards is prone to eye rolling, throwing his mitt into the dugout and quotes like this one after another poor late-August performance against the Detroit Tigers:

“Things happen. If we all could go out there and be that perfect guy, then this game wouldn’t be as hard as it is…That’s how I look at the whole situation. It happens. I’m not mad. Last year I probably walked 75 people, but it’s the nature of the game. You have good walks and bad walks.”

Yes, Edwards throws death stares (with far more accuracy than his pitches) at Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Manager Joe Maddon upon being removed from games he’s clearly blowing. But in the locker room, he is all Zen when asked to review his own performance. Also, when is there a “good” walk unless it’s an intentional setup to try to tease a double play? The reliever may not be “mad,” but clearly I am.

And that’s because the Cubs are in a hotly contested division race. We are reaching a point in the 2018 season where a short string of losses can mean the whole ballgame in more ways than one. And while I’ve opted thus far to train my indignant laser beams on Carl Edwards Jr., there’s not a lot of guys in the pen showing more than solid home run dance moves. Justin Wilson was a lot more fun when I knew him as The Cajun Cook on PBS. Brian Duensing’s ERA is just a shade under 8.00. I’m not sure I remember what Cubs closer Brandon Morrow looks like.

This, I feel it necessary to explicitly state, is not the crew to take us back to the World Series. I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from watching Edwards walk then-Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish in just four pitches during last year’s National League Championship Series. Our bullpen was a straight up embarrassment in 2017 (with a sad nod to the team’s anemic bats) and it seemed certain that Jepstein would solve this problem. Yet as the team marches toward post-season play, we have one too many unnecessary, homophobic infielders and a dearth of reliable talent outside our starting rotation. That’s how you end up dropping four of your last seven games with a hot divisional challenger coming to town.

The Cubs have played many games in a row without rest and Mother Nature has also been less than cooperative. These variables cannot be denied. But the Cubs are supposedly excuse-free in the winning Maddon era. If it’s too late in the season to acquire what we need, we’re going to have to get more from the solid only on paper group we have.