When you’re widely considered World Series favorites, every little detail of the season will be scrutinized closely. When you’re the Chicago Cubs, you can multiply that by ten. The passionate Cubs fan base is hungrier than ever for a championship, which can turn into a bunch of overreactions.
Take the bullpen for instance. If you were judging the Cubs pen by Twitter comments, you’d think LaTroy Hawkins, Terry Adams, and Matt Karchner were leading the charge. But has the relief corps really been that bad?
Let’s look at the numbers. In all of Major League Baseball, the Cubs bullpen ranks:
2nd in opponents batting average (.208)
3rd in opponents OPS (.641)
7th in strikeout rate (9.48 K/9 IP)
10th in ERA (3.48)
In addition to these numbers, they’ve only blown five total saves. Only three teams have blown fewer saves, and each one (Yankees, Mets, and D-backs) is at four apiece. Every team’s bullpen blows games and has rough stretches, but if you only watch the Cubs you may be tempted to think it’s an abnormal thing.
Don’t get me wrong, if the playoffs started today I would be a little nervous about the Cubs bullpen outside of Strop and Rondon. But this is not a bad group overall. And it’s only the middle of June. The Cubs have the best record in baseball and a massive lead in their division. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sports over the years, it’s that overreactions can destroy you.
Thankfully, Theo Epstein isn’t one to overreact.
Yes, all three of the Yankees late-inning relievers would look great in a Cubs uniform. But at the price of a young franchise piece like Kyle Schwarber? No thanks. There will be plenty of solid relievers available at the deadline for a much cheaper price, and there’s still a month and a half of baseball before the deadline even arrives. The Cubs are in great shape and they don’t need to rush to make any moves (looking at you, Wilbon).
Remember how well Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard pitched down the stretch last season? They were added on the cheap and were a huge part of the Cubs’ success. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Jason Hammell or Kyle Hendricks end up in the bullpen later in the year if the Cubs add a starting pitcher.
One particular overreaction I’d like to address is the fans saying the Cubs should cut Justin Grimm. That guy was awfully good last year (1.99 ERA, 67 K’s in 49 IP), and he’s too talented to just throw away because of a rough start to the season.
The Cubs will add a reliever or two by playoff time. The current struggles (if you can call them that) of the bullpen may be long forgotten by the time October rolls around.
Bottom line: this is a decent pen that still has potential to be nasty, no reliever is worth Kyle Schwarber, and there’s plenty of time to make a deal without overreacting.
Now, everyone move your hats to the left and relax.