The 2022 Chicago Cubs finished the season with a forgettable 74-88 record, third in the National League Central. However, after the All-Star Break, the Cubs finished 39-31, one of the best records in baseball over that stretch. So much of the team’s success came from the rotation that boasted a 2.89 ERA, third best in the majors.
After the 2022 trade deadline, the pitching staff became more open, giving less experienced pitchers a real opportunity to showcase their talents.
Hayden Wesneski was acquired from the New York Yankees in the Scott Effross trade and was vital to the pitching staff’s success in the second half of the season.
Wesneski pitched in six games for the Cubs, to the tune of a 2.18 ERA. Wesneski made his debut on Sept. 11 against the San Francisco Giants when he struggled but performed well in the rest of his starts. Wesneski pitched an immaculate inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates during his third start on Sept. 22.
His next start, his second to last of the season, Wesneski notched the win against the Philadelphia Phillies during a three-game sweep of the National League champions who ultimately fell to the Houston Astros in the 2022 World Series.
Adrian Sampson has a history with the Cubs for the past two seasons, but he made his appearances in 2022 count.
On May 31, Sampson signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. Sampson appeared in 21 games in 2022, starting 19 of them, whirling a 3.11 ERA. Sampson’s ERA hovered around four until September, his best month of the season. In four of his final five games of the season, Sampson pitched over six innings and allowed a maximum of one run in each start, which dropped his ERA by nearly one point.
Sampson could be another older piece the Cubs can rely on heading into 2023.
Javier Assad was called up from the Iowa Cubs after boasting a 2.95 ERA with the team over eight starts. Assad made his major league debut against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, when he twirled four innings, only allowing four hits and zero earned runs.
Assad added one more start in August, shutting down the Toronto Blue Jays’ powerful lineup over five innings. During his opening month, Assad pitched nine innings and surrendered zero runs. His only concern was his control as he walked six batters during that stretch while striking out four. Those concerns continued during the rest of his next six starts, but he was successful in the most important stat: earned runs allowed.
Assad had a 3.11 ERA last season, with all of his starts coming in the second half of play.
The bullpen shifted after David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Scott Effross were traded at the deadline.
In his rookie season, Brandon Hughes became a reliable pitcher in the bullpen. Hughes made his debut May 17, the first of 57 appearances for the Cubs, pitching to a 3.12 ERA and a solid 1.092 WHIP.
Hughes’ role in the bullpen fluctuated throughout the season. He appeared as early as the fifth inning and would throw around an inning of work. Hughes solidified himself as the closer late in the season, as he finished out eight of the Cubs’ wins. At 26 years old, he’s a young player that will be relied upon in 2023.
In his second season with the Cubs, Michael Rucker appeared in 41 games, all out of the bullpen. Rucker established himself in early August and became a solid piece the final two months of the season.
In total, Rucker pitched to a 3.95 ERA in his appearances, throwing 54.2 innings and striking out 50 hitters. For most of the season, Rucker was dependable and could consistently produce 1-2 innings of work.
Rucker bounced back this season after an abysmal 2021 campaign where he threw to a 7 ERA in 20 appearances in the Cubs’ bullpen.
After the Cubs’ 74-88 finish, President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer promoted “intelligent spending” during the offseason. With solid performances from the pitching staff this season, will intelligent spending help the Cubs be competitive in 2023? Only time will tell.