The Chicago Cubs probably didn’t think they’d be looking to a former Nebraska Cornhusker to be their stopper in the bullpen this season. It turns out that while there has been a great deal of struggles in the revamped bullpen this season, there has been one pitcher who has been consistent from opening day until the Cubs clinched the NL Central.
Brian Duensing, a former Husker ace and bullpen asset, is arguably having the best season of his relief career, at age 34. The journeyman lefty was brought into Chicago as what’s known as a LOOGY, or a “left-handed, one out guy.”
The Cubs did indeed use Duensing as a LOOGY for much of the season, but as 2017 has unfolded, manager Joe Maddon has realized the veteran is more valuable when he’s pitching a complete inning as opposed to one out. The former Husker, one of just two former Nebraska baseball players in the major leagues, has rewarded the Chicago Cubs with someone they can count on as they head into the playoffs.
After posting a 17-2 record for the Huskers, Duensing was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Minnesota Twins. There was a time when the Twins thought the hurler might be able to be a fixture in their rotation, especially after posting a 10-3 record with a 2.62 ERA in 2010.
It soon turned out that the pitcher simply didn’t have the stamina or the ability to stay healthy as a starter. By 2013, he was a full-time relief pitcher with the Twins. In 2016, he joined the Baltimore Orioles, but injuries forced him to miss all but 14 games.
The Cubs were able to get Duensing at a discounted rate, thanks in large part because of his shortened 2016, and he’s been quite the bargain. Through 68 games (his highest number of appearances since 2013) Duensing has posted a 2.74 earned run average.
That number is the lowest since his career-best 2.62 ERA in his second season in the big leagues. Better than earned run average, which can be a misleading stat for a reliever, his hits per nine innings is tied for a career-best at 8.4, and his strikeouts per nine innings is easily a career high at 8.8.
While the rest of the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen has been pitching better of late, it seems like former Husker Brian Duensing could morph into the team’s eighth-inning guy once the postseason kicks off.
[Featured Image by Patrick Semansky/AP Images]