A Decade of Cubs Closers

A Decade of Cubs Closers

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By: Alex Patt

The Cubs closer role in 2018 is still somewhat up for grabs after the departure of Wade Davis. Candidates for the job include Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek or Carl Edwards Jr. The decision will likely officially come in spring, and the Cubs may still be shopping for a closer, so right now we will wait and see.

What is interesting to look at the past decade is how many different players assumed the role of closer. Even the past two seasons, they have had three different closers. To further explore the recent history of the Cubs closer role, and how often it changes, lets look at all the closers the Cubs have had going back to 2008.

Kerry Wood (2008)

The once dominant starter rebounded after injures and became an All Star closer in 2008. At 31 years old he recorded 34 saves with a 3.26 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 84 strikeouts and 1.085 WHIP in 66.1 innings pitched.

He made his second All Star game that year and had his highest K/9 (11.4) of his career. His 2.1 fWAR was the 5th best in the National League among relievers. This was his only year as Cubs closer as he left for the Cleveland Indians in 2009. Though he came back in 2011 and the beginning of 2012, he was a solid reliever but not a closer.

Kevin Gregg (2009, 2013)

The Kevin Gregg story was kind of weird. He came over first in 2009 to take over the vacant closer spot after Wood left. Gregg was coming off a decent season in 2008, but 2009 as Cubs closer was not that great.

He recorded 23 saves but blew seven of them and pitched to a 4.72 ERA and 4.93 FIP in 68.2 innings. He surrendered a career-high 13 home runs that year and eventually lost the duty to Carlos Marmol. He left for Toronto the next year.

Then suddenly in April of 2013 he came back. Cubs fans groaned, but he actually did a bit better than his first time in Chicago. He blew five saves but recorded 33 as he pitched to a 3.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 4.10 FIP in 62.0 innings. He gave up only six home runs that year, which was a big improvement. Certainly not mind-blowing numbers, but an improvement from 2009.

Carlos Marmol (2009?2013)

Marmol had been a Cub for many years, and was an All Star reliever in 2008. His days as full-time closer basically began when Gregg struggled in 2009. From then on he was the guy until the 2013 season when Gregg came back and took the role back.

From 2009?2012, Marmol recorded 107/129 saves with a 3.33 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 1.377 WHIP, 402 strikeouts and 210 walks. While he was very wild at times, he often got out of jams. His 2011 was rough as he blew 10 saves, but still recorded 34. His best year as closer was arguably 2010 when he recorded a career-high 38 saves while pitching to a 2.55 ERA.

He was a roller coaster who basically fell off completely at the end, but he had some real effective years. There has been no Cubs reliever the past decade who had a longer tenure at closer than Marmol.

Jose Veras (2014)

Coming over from Detroit, Veras was named the closer to start 2014. Veras had a successful 2013 season recording 21/25 saves with a 3.02 ERA and 3.62 FIP. His tenure at Cubs closer was disastrous as he blew both save attempts in the first week or so and had a 8.10 ERA in 13.1 innings when he was cut in June.

Hector Rondon (2014?2016)

Probably the most underrated closer the Cubs have had. Rondon became the Cubs closer in 2014 after Veras did not go well to start the season. In his first year as closer he impressed with 29 saves and a 2.42 ERA and 1.058 WHIP.

He only got better in 2015 when he pitched to a 1.67 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 1.000 WHIP, 69 Ks to 15 BBs and saved 30 games. He also closed out the 2015 NLDS against the Cardinals, which was probably his best moment as a Cub.

2016 began with him as closer again. In the first half he was dominant, pitching to a 1.72 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 2.38 FIP, 42 strikeouts and only four walks. He recorded 18 saves before August 1st. His job would be handed over to Aroldis Chapman after the 2016 deadline.

Aroldis Chapman (2016)

Chapman came over from the Yankees near the deadline in 2016 for the home stretch of the season and the postseason. He made his Cubs debut against the White Sox at Wrigley Field on June 29th, but did not get the save seeing the score was 8?1. The rest of the way in the regular season he recorded 16/18 saves and pitched to a 1.01 ERA, 0.82 FIP and 0.825 WHIP in 26.2 innings. He struck out 46 batters.

In the postseason he was worked to death as he pitched in 15.2 innings. He got big saves in game 4 of the NLDS and game 5 of the World Series. He finished game 6 of the NLCS. Let us try to forget Rajai Davis shall we? Overall had a 3.55 ERA that postseason.

Wade Davis (2017)

?The Machine? came over from Kansas City after the Cubs traded Jorge Soler for him. From 2014?2016 he was arguably the most reliable closer in baseball, and he brought his effectiveness to Chicago.

While he was not quite as good as he was with the Royals, he was still really good. Recording 32 saves and blowing just one in September, he pitched to a 2.30 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 3.38 FIP and struck out 79 batters. His walks and home runs did increase in the second half, but he still got the job done. He heroically got the save in the wild NLDS game 5 vs. the Nationals as well as game 4 of the NLCS. He is now a member of the Rockies, but his one year as a Cub will be remembered for a while.

Who will be next? Morrow? Cisheck? Other? Stay tuned!

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Alex Patt is a contributor for Wrigley Rapport and other news/sports publications. You can follow him on twitter @chifanpatt1


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