The Bullpen’s New 1-2 Punch

And just like that, the Cubs have three of the last four pitchers to record the final out in a World Series.

Even with the departure of Aroldis Chapman, Chicago possessed a cadre of formidable bullpen holdovers. Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon had, after all, handled the duties of closing out games for much of 2016 before Chapman arrived, and the budding emergence of Carl Edwards Jr. was enough to rest comfortably going into 2017. But no team ever complains of a surfeit of talented relievers interfering with winning, I suppose.

With the forearm scare of 2016 assumed behind him, Davis is the easy presumptive closer in Chicago and perhaps even an upgrade over Chapman if he rediscovers his otherworldly 2014-2015 form. His high ground-ball rate will play very nicely with the sturdy Cubs infield behind him, and when that doesn’t do the job, his strikeout rate can take it from there. Davis’ mid-90s cutter induces buckled knees and despondent, shaking heads from opposing hitters. If healthy, he’s a late-inning superstar.

Uehara, who will turn 42 just as the 2017 season kicks off, has remained productive despite his advanced age with a 2.80 DRAand 12.1 K/9 for the Red Sox in 2016. He’s still allowing fewer than one runner per inning, albeit with a worrisome spike in home run rate and decreased durability. His velocity has dropped steadily, but his three pitches have continued to evade hitters’ bats. Especially that splitter, with a 22 percent whiff rate in 2016. Even his worst pitch in that regard, the now slow-poke fastball, escaped being hit just over 12 percent of the time.

This piece, previewed here, is part of Baseball Prospectus’ “Transaction Analysis” series, which covers all trades and signings around the league. For the rest of this article, head on over to the main site.

Lead photo courtesy of Ken Blaze—USA Today Sports

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