Rowan Wick’s ability to step into a high-leverage role has been crucial for the back end of a Cubs bullpen that has been in flux all season. In 31 innings at the big league level, Wick’s ERA and FIP are 2.61 and 2.54, respectively, and his fastball has frustrated batters so much that the pitch ranks in the top-tier of run prevention and whiff rate.
It’s actually pretty wild just how good Wick’s fastball has been. His mid-to-upper 90’s four-seamer ranks 14th among 280 qualified relievers in terms of per-pitch value (1.80 wFB/C) this season. That means it is more valuable than 94% of MLB relievers. He’s achieved those results by generating a whiff-per-swing rate that’s better than 85% of MLB pitchers (min: 200 four-seamers). Yup, Wick’s fastball is the real deal.
As a result of that overpowering fastball, Wick’s curveball will catch batters off guard and freeze them. Likewise, Wick’s disgusting knuckle curveball amplifies the hell out of his fastball. Just ask the Padres’ Luis Urias about Wick’s fastball/curve combination. Ice.
We should also take a moment to recognize Wick’s demeanor on the mound. I mean, look at the dude’s reaction after he struck out Urias to end the game. Sure, the inning was stressful and that game nearly got away, but he buckled down like a true closer and got the job done. Then he stoically greeted his battery-mate in victory in a manner akin to Wade Davis’ post-game “celebrations.” I love the way he handled the moment.
What makes this even crazier is that Wick has only been pitching for a few years and isn’t a finished product. He has the same fastball/curve combination as Craig Kimbrel and actually induces the same amount of whiffs/swing as Kimbrel does with his fastball. The difference between the two pitchers, though, is Wick’s curveball doesn’t induce nearly as many whiffs as Kimbrel’s.
With more experience and tutelage from Kimbrel, Wick can still has incredible potential to grow as an elite reliever.