Cubs’ relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress has been nominated for the 2020 National League Reliever of the Year Award. Other nominees include Trevor Rosenthal of the Padres and the Devin Williams of the Brewers.
Coming off a poor 2019 with the Brewers, a season in which his ERA ballooned to over 5.00, the Cubs signed Jeffress to a modest one-year contract worth $850,000. It turned out to be one of the best signings the Cubs made, especially given the inconsistent performances of the bullpen during the first few weeks of the season.
Jeffress quickly settled into his role as the setup man but was soon called upon to be the closer as Craig Kimbrel struggled mightily to start the season. Jeffress continued to turn in quality performances, solidifying himself as the Cubs’ closer.
He finished the season with a 1.54 ERA, 17K, and a .094 WHIP to go along with eight saves. He even was third on the team amongst all pitchers in Win Probability Added (behind Darvish and Hendricks).
It will be interesting to see if the Cubs re-sign Jeffress, as he surely will command more money than what he signed for last offseason. While Jeffress’s stats do look good, some of his more advanced statistics point to signs that he was a bit lucky.
He was in the bottom 10% in the league for hard hit rate and his 4.09 FIP (only 8% better than league average), which means he relied heavily upon the defense behind him. While re-signing Jeffress as a quality bullpen arm that could serve as a seventh- or eighth-inning option would be a good move given his successful first season at Wrigley, Craig Kimbrel should be considered the frontrunner for the closer role heading into next season.
Overall, Jeffress does deserve recognition because he got the job done when he needed to, regardless of what the advanced statistics say. The recognition he deserves comes in the form of the N.L. Reliever of the Year award nomination.
It is an award that most certainly will be won by Milwaukee’s Devin Williams (0.33 ERA, 0.86 FIP, 0.63 WHIP) but, nonetheless, let’s take this time to appreciate what Jeremy Jeffress brought to the table — a reliable arm that settled down an inconsistent bullpen and helped the Cubs win baseball games.