Scott Effross May Need to Change Last Name to EffWAR

With full understanding that WAR numbers for pitchers are tricky at best, particularly when we’re just over a month into the season, it’s pretty cool to look at the Cubs leaderboard in that category right now. According to FanGraphs’ measurement of wins above replacement (fWAR), righty reliever Scott Effross‘s mark of 0.6 sits at the top. Justin Steele also has 0.6 fWAR, but he’s pitched 12.1 more innings than Effross and has thus been “less valuable” on a per-inning basis.

I’ve gushed about Effross on these pages enough that there may not be much additional value in continuing that here, but suffice to say he’s been putting out so many fires he’s earned an honorary spot at CFD Engine Co. 78. With slightly better luck, or maybe just slightly better defense, the sidewinding righty could probably go about his work with nothing but a garden hose.

That’s fitting because folks don’t think much of a guy who barely throws 90 and wasn’t highly touted beyond CI and other prospect stan circles until about a month ago. Now his sinker is a regular guest on Pitching Ninja’s Twitter feed and Sahadev Sharma is writing about his elite vertical approach angle ($) and how the variation between his sinker and fastball creates even more deception than his delivery alone.

Though the numbers have shifted a wee bit since Sharma’s piece, Effross is still among the league leaders in getting swings on pitches outside the zone while getting batters to take strikes. His 39.7% O-swing ranks 21st in MLB among pitchers with at least 10 innings and his 57% Z-swing rate is 13th lowest. Just above him at 56.8% is Steve Cishek, who served as a mentor to Effross as he was working through the changes to his delivery.

Wait, I said I wasn’t going to make this an excuse to effusively praise Effross. Sorry, let’s pivot back to that leaderboard, which also features Steele, Keegan Thompson, and Rowan Wick (the latter two are both at 0.4 fWAR). Wick may not be the same kind of homegrown as the other two, but the Cubs traded for him when he’d accumulated only 8.1 MLB innings.

That means all four of the Cubs’ current pitching fWAR leaders could still be around for several years and at least two of them will be bullpen mainstays. Steele and Thompson sticking in the rotation would be incredibly valuable, but they’ve both proven they can handle several relief innings at a clip as well. After far too many years, it feels as though the Cubs have finally established a legitimate pitching pipeline.

How they maintain that and supplement it through free agency moving forward may be the secret to turning this rebuild around in a hurry.

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