Bullpen pitching is a key component to MLB teams winning games and holding leads.
However, having a solid bullpen can sometimes be an issue for the Chicago Cubs.
While 2023 will see some unfamiliar faces, it will also have fans seeing some familiar faces in the bullpen.
One of the returning bullpen players from 2022 is Mark Leiter Jr.
Leiter, who was part of the starting rotation in April 2022, has some interesting numbers.
Before being sent to the bullpen, Leiter had three starts as part of the Cubs rotation.
While he only pitched 9.1 innings during those three games, he allowed nine runs off 10 hits.
However, when he was put into a relief role, he was better.
His overall numbers might have people believing he’s a bad pitcher, as he finished 2022 with a 3.99 ERA in 35 games.
But when you look strictly at his 31 relief appearances, you see him with a 2.87 ERA and a WHIP of 1.03.
While he’s not an A-list reliever, his 2022 season saw him as a success story out of the pen.
From the Cubs ZiPS article: " Mark Leiter Jr. comes closest; if projected as a full-time reliever, he comes out forecast for a 3.07 ERA."
A bit of a forgotten guy for the bullpen mix. He was great in the role with the splitter particularly being effective.
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) December 20, 2022
He’s someone who can come into a game and get through a lineup at least one time.
In 20 of his 31 relief appearances during 2022, he allowed no runs.
With this in mind, it makes him a solid choice as a middle reliever in clutch situations.
He’s got the stuff to pitch scoreless innings when the team needs him.
While those four starts during 2022 hurt his ERA, his success rate as a reliever shows he can be a star.
If he makes the roster for Opening Day, the Cubs won’t regret keeping him in the bullpen.