Jake Arrieta does plenty to help the Cubs win every day that he takes the ball, now he’s helping them win by launching 440’ bombs with his bat. It seems that the reigning CY Young award winner can do no wrong as he tossed seven strong innings in Arizona, and smacked a two-run dinger to propel the Cubs to a 7-3 victory on Sunday. Thanks in part to the Arrieta bomb the Cubs built an early 3-0 lead before seeing the Diamondbacks square up a few balls, something that is definitely rare against Jake. A home run from Paul Goldschmidt started a two run third inning, and a solo shot from Socrates Brito evened things at three.
Jorge Soler owns Shelby Miller, and he got him again yesterday as hit a sky scraping solo shot to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the sixth en route to a 7-3 win. Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez were fantastic out of the pen to allow the Cubs to push their record to a sterling 5-1 on the young season as they head back to Chicago for the home opener tonight.
The bullpen is a tricky thing, from year to year guys come and go, and every once in a while a team boasts a dominant bullpen relatively out of nowhere. Off-season acquisitions, and power arms marinating on the farm are usually catalysts for such success, but injuries, and unforeseen ineffectiveness can derail the pen quickly. Given the large number of variables that go into predicting the success of a bullpen it’s usually an exercise in futility, but here goes… The Cubs’ bullpen has a chance to be dominant (They all do! You’re screaming), well, let’s just look at the options, shall we?
The Cubs have a solid core group of guys coming back this year, which could point to a reasonable amount of success in 2016. I base this mostly on the fact that the Cubs had the 8th best bullpen ERA in the Majors last year, and names like Brian Schlitter, Rafael Soriano, Edwin Jackson (wasn’t too terrible in this role), Gonzalez Germen, and Phil Coke were members of said pen. To be fair, guys like Trevor Cahill, and Travis Wood exceeded expectations in rather unfamiliar bullpen roles last year, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that they will come back down to Earth a bit. The fact remains though, the best arms out of that Cubs pen are back this year, and there really is no reason to expect a significant drop in performance. Let’s break down the possible bullpen roles, yes, despite the crazy competition that will be taking place this spring.
Closer – Hector Rondon
Set up – Pedro Strop
Set up – Justin Grimm
Middle Relief – Adam Warren (acquisition) (Rotation Chance)
Middle Relief – Rex Brothers (acquisition)
Middle Relief – Neil Ramirez
Long Relief – Travis Wood
Long Relief – Trevor Cahill (Rotation chance)
On paper… on paper, that looks pretty darn good, and obviously as I write this I’m using the most optimistic thoughts as possible. A big key here is the health of Neil Ramirez, he was outstanding in 2014, and parts of 2015 when he wasn’t battling back from injuries, a healthy Ramirez goes a long way towards a great 2016. Adam Warren proves to be an upgrade over guys that the Cubs had to turn to last year in tough spots, like Jason Motte (again, ignore the injuries for the sake of this conversation). There is also a chance that Warren will have an opportunity to win a rotation spot, but guys with flexibility are all the rage for Joe Maddon. Rex Brothers, who was dominate in 2013, and struggled mightily in 2014, looks to bounce back, and if he does proves to be another rather large upgrade. Young arms like Carl Edwards Jr., Duane Underwood Jr., and Pierce Johnson could also make an impact in the Cubs pen this year despite being starters while working their way through the organization, save for Edwards Jr. last year.
The talent pool is better than last year, and the depth is better as well, those two things put the Cubs in a good spot to start the spring. If injuries pop up, like they absolutely will, the Cubs are in a better position to handle them, and still might have a few new additions that could surprise during camp, and win a job.
MONDAY • MAY 4, 2015
Not much offense in this one as the Cubs and Sounds combined for three runs on just thirteen hits. The right team had more as the Cubs were able to tightrope their way to a 2-1 victory on the road.
At the Plate:
- Arismendy Alcantara is heating up, he was 1-for-4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored.
- Matt Szczur showed off his power, he was 1-for-2 with two walks, a dinger, two RBI’s, and a run scored.
- Javier Baez had another good night, he was 1-for-2 with a walk, and stolen base.
- Taylor Davis was solid, he went 2-for-4, he’s now hitting .333 on the season.
- Mike Baxter and John Andreoli each had one hit in the win.
On the Mound:
- Eric Jokisch got the start and was outstanding, he worked six innings, giving up one run on four hits while walking one, and striking out five.
- Brian Schlitter was good out of the pen tonight, he worked a scoreless inning while giving up one hit, and striking out one.
- Justin Grimm is working his way back, hooray. He worked a scoreless inning, surrendering one hit while walking one, and striking out two.
- James Russell is also doing some good things, he worked a scoreless inning as well to pick up his third save of the season.
A long one early this afternoon saw the Smokies comeback then blow a lead late in a tough loss. The Smokies only gave up six hits in thirteen innings, unfortunately that was just enough for Birmingham.
At the Plate:
- Pin-Chieh Chen was seeing the ball well today, and that’s an understatement. Chen was 2-for-2 with FIVE walks, a dinger, an RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored. That’s right, he reached base SEVEN times.
- Willson Contreras was solid, he went 3-for-5 with a walk, and two doubles.
- Stephen Bruno has been really good, he was 2-for-6, he’s now hitting .293 on the season.
- Ryan Dent had a good game from the nine spot, he was 1-for-5 with a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored.
On the Mound:
- Felix Pena got the start and struggled with his command, he tossed 5.2 innings, giving up two runs on just two hits while walking five, and striking out four.
- Fernando Cruz bounced back today, he worked 1.1 scoreless innings, surrendering just one base hit.
- Michael Jensen was also really good, he worked two scoreless innings, giving up two hits while striking out three.
- Stephen Perakslis was brilliant, and I thought he was going to get the win, he worked three scoreless innings, surrendering zero hits while striking out three.
- Zach Cates picked up the blown save, and loss, he worked two-thirds of an inning, giving up two runs on one hit while walking one, and striking out one.
Things got a little out of hand in this one as Myrtle Beach fell behind early before racing in front late. Trailing 2-0, the Pelicans charged ahead with six runs in the fourth inning to take a 7-6 lead. The Pelicans didn’t stop there as they finished the night with fourteen runs, and seventeen hits.
At the Plate:
- Mark Zagunis was 2-for-6 with two doubles, and two runs scored.
- Wes Darvill was 1-for-3 with two walks, a triple, three RBI’s, and two runs scored.
- Billy Mckinney was 2-for-4 with a triple, three RBI’s, a walk, and a run scored.
- Jacob Rogers was 3-for-5 with a dinger, four RBI’s, a walk, and a run scored.
- Jeimer Candelario was 2-for-6 with a double, and a run scored.
- Kevin Brown was 3-for-5 with a double, and a run scored.
- Daniel Lockhart was 2-for-5 with an RBI, a stolen base, and a run scored.
- Carlos Penalver was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI’s, a walk, and two runs scored.
- Alberto Mineo was 0-for-3 but walked twice, and scored three runs.
On the Mound:
- Jen-Ho Tseng got the start was oddly erratic, he worked three innings, giving up three runs on six hits, while walking two.
- Josh Conway was touched up as well, he worked one inning, giving up three runs on three hits while walking two, and striking out one.
- Michael Heesch was outstanding, and he picked up the win. Heesch worked three scoreless innings, surrendering two hits while striking out three.
- Jasvir Rakkar was solid once again, he worked two scoreless innings to notch his third save of the year.
Two quick runs from Great Lakes was the extent of the scoring in this one as South Bend could not get anything going in a 2-0 loss.
At the Plate:
- Charcer Burks continued his hot 2015, he was 1-for-4 with a stolen base, he’s now hitting .313 on the season.
- Chesny Young is also swinging it, he went 1-for-4 in the loss.
- Jason Volser, Justin Marra, and Rashad Crawford all finished the day with one hit.
On the Mound:
- Jake Stinnett wasn’t too bad, he worked five innings, giving up two runs on seven hits while walking one, and striking out five.
- Francisco Carrillo was dominant, he worked three scoreless innings, surrendering one hit while striking out one.
- Tyler Ihrig was also good, he worked a scoreless inning to keep the Cubs in it late.
In his first chance to impress the new Cubs staff Edwin Jackson was underwhelming to say the least. It was the same old story for Edwin as he couldn’t pitch around mistakes behind him, or mistakes of his own (one error). When it was all said and done Jackson gave up four runs, unearned, in two innings of work, sure they were unearned but he played a big role in that. The better news from the day was Kyle Hendricks throwing the ball very well, and Mike Olt continuing to have the best at bats of any Cubs player so far this Spring. Olt was 1-for-1 on the day with his second spring dinger, an opposite field blast, and a walk which brings his spring total to three in just ten plate appearances. It wasn’t all bad on the mound, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards, and Justin Grimm worked a total of four scoreless innings, giving up two hits, no walks, while striking out six.
The Cubs did some good things today, getting hits with runners in scoring position was not one of them. But about those good things, the Cubs pitching was stellar, and their defense was just as good. Jeff Samardzija loves facing the Pirates, especially in Pittsburgh, one year after going eight scoreless against the Buccos, he went seven scoreless but settled for a no decision. Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and James Russell all did their job out of the bullpen, Carlos Villanueva, not so much. Villanueva faced one batter, and that was it, Neil Walker blasted a walk-off home run to move the Cubs to 0-1 on the young season.
The Cubs struggles were front and center at the plate as they went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, yikes. They also struck out a lot, eleven times to be exact as they were baffled by Francisco Liriano all day long. I did like the Cubs approach today though, as they worked deep counts and were able to get to the Pirates pen by the 7th inning, it just didn’t work out. Emilio Bonifacio had a big day at the plate in his debut as he went 4-for-5 with a double, the Cubs as a whole only had six hits in the loss.
* Photo credit: GENE PUSKAR/AP
The Cubs did a lot of things well today, hitting with runners in scoring position was not one of them. The Cubs registered nine hits, took five walks, but were a paltry 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left eleven men on base. Solid performances up and down the Cubs pitching staff as well, only allowing one run on four hits.
At the Plate:
- Emilio Bonifacio did well out of the lead off spot today going 2-for-4 with two singles and a stolen base.
- Anthony Rizzo has had a hot start to the spring, he continued that today as he went 2-for-3 with two singles. Rizzo is now five for his last seven, and is hitting .500 in Cactus League play.
- Mike Olt, Logan Watkins, Albert Almora, and Darwin Barney all had one hit in the loss. Almora got the start in center, and Olt started at third, both went 1-for-3.
On the Mound:
- Travis Wood was brilliant today, much like he was all of last year. Wood worked three scoreless innings giving up one hit while striking out three.
- Justin Grimm took the loss as he struggled a bit in the inning he worked. Grimm gave up one run on two hits while walking one, and striking out one.
- Hector Rondon, Chang-Yong Lim, Marcus Hatley, and Tommy Hottovy combined to work four scoreless innings, giving up only one hit while walking one, and striking out three (each pitcher tossed one inning).
Off and not exactly running for the Cubs as they fell to the Diamondbacks this afternoon 5-2 in their Cactus League opener. The star of the show today was the debut of new Cubs Park in Mesa, by everyone’s account it is the best Spring facility there is for the players and fans.
- Jeff Samardzija got the start and was a little too amped up as he walked the first batter of the game on four straight pitches. Samardzija settled down after that, and had a rather solid spring debut against a stout Diamondbacks lineup. Shark worked two scoreless innings giving up two hits while walking one, and striking out two.
- Starlin Castro looked really good at the plate on a day when Cubs hitters were anything but comfortable. On the day, the Cubs had five hits as a team, Castro ended with two of them. He finished the day 2-for-2 with a double, and an RBI.
- Two of the newest members of the Cubs bullpen struggled today, as both Wesley Wright, and Jose Veras were beat up. Wright, who took the loss, worked one inning giving up three runs on two hits while striking out three. Veras worked an inning, giving up two runs on two hits while walking one and striking out one.
- Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm impressed out of the bullpen today. Grimm touched 97 on the gun while working a scoreless inning. Rondon also worked a scoreless inning, and struck out the side in doing so.
The Cubs will travel to Tempe tomorrow afternoon to take on the Angels beginning at 2:05 PM CST.