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.
On the surface it looks as though the Cubs staff struggled as a whole today, but that really wasn’t the case. Jeff Samardzija got the start and turned in the longest outing of any Cubs pitcher so far, tossing three innings giving up one run on one hit, while walking three and striking out one. It could have been much worse but Shark wiggled off the hook in the second after loading the bases with no outs. Obviously he didn’t have his best command as illustrated by the three walks, but he battled, and he wasn’t the only one that struggled with command today. Michael Bowden walked two in his inning of work, and Rafael Dolis imploded, walking three in a third of an inning while giving up four runs, three earned, on just one hit. Cory Wade, Blake Parker, James Russell, Casey Coleman, and Shawn Camp all had scoreless appearances.
The Cubs were able to plate two runs in the first inning off of Trevor Cahill, but that is all they would get in this one. Anthony Rizzo continued his strong spring going 2-for-3 with a double, and an RBI, he’s now hitting .364 (4-for-11) in the Cactus League. Luis Valbuena continues to make a strong case to be the starting third baseman going 1-for-2 with a run scored, he’s hitting a robust .571 (4-for-7) this Spring. Jorge Soler had a solid day at the plate going 1-for-2 with a triple, it’s impressive to see a guy that big run that well.
Thanks for reading,
After getting swept by the Rockies, the Cubs will now travel to Arizona to finish up the road part of their schedule. The Cubs went into the Colorado series looking to put themselves in a good position to lose less than 100 games, unfortunately after the sweep it is starting to look very bleak. The Cubs will attempt to not only win their first road series against a western division team, but unbelievably their first road win against the division. They are currently 0-16 and according to Stats Inc no team has ever gone winless against one division on the road in a single season. It will be tough for the Cubs as we have seen there is basically no pitching left and the offense has been rather quiet, even after going to Colorado. Hope we see the Cubs play hard these last six games and maybe, just maybe win the last two series of the season.
Record: 78-78 (Home 38-37); 3rd in West
Runs Scored: 705 (5th NL)
Team ERA: 3.98 (10th NL)
Last 10: 6-4
Last Series: Lost two of three to the Giants
Record: 59-97 (Road 22-56); 5th in Central
Runs Scored: 596 (14th NL)
Team ERA: 4.92 (14th NL)
Last 10: 1-9
Last Series: Swept by the Rockies
Friday, September 28 – 8:40 PM CST – CSN
Saturday, September 29 – 7:10 PM CST – WGN
Sunday, September 30 – 3:10 PM CST – WGN
Pitching Matchups for the weekend.
Friday, September 28
Cubs: Travis Wood (6-12, 4.23 ERA)
Diamondbacks: Ian Kennedy (14-11, 4.14 ERA)
Saturday, September 29
Cubs: Justin Germano (2-9, 5.65 ERA)
Diamondbacks: Trevor Cahill (12-12, 3.86 ERA)
Sunday, September 30
Cubs: Chris Rusin (1-3, 7.30 ERA)
Diamondbacks: Josh Collmenter (5-3, 3.80 ERA)
Prediction: Cubs lose series 2-1
Thanks for Reading,
Finally Cubs baseball is back on Friday, and with the way the Cubs have been playing that is actually a good thing. The Cubs are red-hot, winning nine of their last fourteen games which has moved them out of last place in the Central Division. The Diamondbacks have taken a step back this season after being one of the surprise teams last year. Sub par years from Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy have contributed to that fall from the top of the West. Mediocre is a word that should be used in describing the D-Backs season to this point, they are 6th in runs scored, and 10th in ERA in the National League respectively. The Cubs still sit near the bottom of the league in both runs scored and ERA but this has been a different team since Anthony Rizzo got the call near the end of June. In order for the Cubs to be successful this weekend they are going to have to get a lead early against the D-Backs starters as they rank near the bottom of the NL, 14th to be exact, in starter ERA with a 4.26. While the pen for Arizona is 6th best in the National League, full preview/breakdown after the jump.