Matt Swarmer became a casualty of the 40-man roster crunch just before the All-Star break when the Cubs activated lefty Steven Brault from the IL. That wasn’t a big surprise because the 28-year-old Swarmer had posted a 5.03 ERA and incredibly unsightly 7.35 FIP with a high walk percentage and way too many home runs allowed. On the other hand, his big leg kick and slider-heavy approach had promise and might work given the right circumstances.
That may yet happen with the Cubs because Swarmer cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, where he could get the chance to work in a more targeted relief role. Though he’s worked primarily as a starter since being drafted in the 19th round back in 2016, he had much better results — discounting the 10 walks in 9.1 innings — over six appearances out of the bullpen with the Cubs. It seems evident that Swarmer’s best chance at success is to really lean into his funky delivery and solid breaking ball.
We’ve seen a similar approach work well for reliever Scott Effross, who dropped his arm angle down a couple years ago and has turned his slider into an almost unhittable pitch. Effross also has an incredible changeup and a sinker that gets batters to swing even when they’re being hit by the pitch, so this is far from a direct comp. The bigger point is that buying into what the organization suggests, if the Cubs indeed want to tweak Swarmer’s approach, could work wonders.