Foresight is 2020: Will Jeremy Jeffress regain his 2018 dominance?
Hindsight is 20/20, they always say. But as the 2020 Cubs season gets underway, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight — foresight is the only option at the moment. So let’s play a game of 20 questions, tackling the most important topics surrounding this Cubs team entering the campaign.
Next up: Will Jeremy Jeffress regain his 2018 dominance? What should the Cubs be expecting from him?
Cubs fans are well aware of the September push the Brewers made in 2018 to force a game 163 and steal the NL Central crown from their hands.
Many will remember the incredible September runs Christian Yelich and Josh Hader put together to lead them there. But they might forget the other ace in the bullpen for Milwaukee that fall — Jeremy Jeffress, the newest member of the 2020 Cubs bullpen.
Jeffress was lights out in September 2018, allowing 0 runs, 3 hits and striking out 15 in 10.2 innings as the Brewers overtook the Cubs for the division.
Jeffress fell off from that production last year, pitching to a 5.02 ERA before the Brewers released him in September. He was hampered by a shoulder injury in April that caused him to miss the start of the season and a hip injury in August, but wouldn’t put his 2019 woes on his lack of health.
“I wouldn’t say too much,” Jeffress said. “It was only about a month I was down with [the shoulder injury]. I don’t think it was too much of a pain for me.”
Still, Jeffress used the offseason to build up his shoulder strength to make sure he was ready by Opening Day.
“I did do just a little bit more than I did normally in the offseason and I came in feeling great,” Jeffress said in Cubs camp. “Feeling good right now, excited to get going.”
It was just 18 months ago that Jeffress was one of the top relievers in the big leagues, earning an All-Star selection with a 1.29 ERA, 15 saves and 18 holds. A healthy spring training and strong offseason could help him recover that form.
He’s had success early in spring training with 3 scoreless innings, allowing only a pair of hits.
Jeffress’ command of his sinker will be crucial to any success he has. In 2018, Jeffress used the pitch 30.8 percent of the time, per MLB Statcast, with opponents hitting .215 off the pitch. In 2019, Jeffress increased his sinker usage to 34 percent, but it wasn’t as effective as opponents hit .291 off it.
If Jeffress can rediscover his sinker, he could prove to be one of the best bullpen signings this offseason. He and Craig Kimbrel are the only members of the bullpen competition with a long track record of success as a reliever. A resurgence from those two veterans could form a 1-2 punch as strong as any in the National League.
Off the field, Jeffress can offer plenty to the young arms vying for a place in the Cubs bullpen. He spent time this spring during Rowan Wick’s bullpen and offered feedback and advice.
Between Jeffress and Kimbrel, the big-game experience they can offer to young arms come August and September could prove to be crucial.
As we approach the start of the regular season, read more on our “Foresight is 2020” series:
–Will Nico Hoerner start the year in the majors?
–How does Jason Kipnis fit into the Cubs mix?
–How will second base shake out?
–Will Jeremy Jeffress regain his 2018 dominance?
–Will Craig Kimbrel bounce back with a normal offseason/spring training?
–Who will emerge in Cubs bullpen?
–Can Kyle Schwarber put it all together after a huge second half?
–What role will Steven Souza Jr. have?
-Will somebody grab the everyday center field role?
-Can Willson Contreras maintain his 2019?