Morning Cubs Roundup: About that bullpen

Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Sorry folks, this one is going to need to be a quick one. Some computer issues and work schedule have me pressed for time this morning.

Last Game: Cubs 8, Reds 7

Up Next: Cubs @ Reds, 5:40 CST, Marquee

Game Recap

Jon Lester and the offense came to play. The rest... not so much. The bullpen meltdown will be the main focus, but the defense wasn't exactly stellar last night either.

What can I say about Lester that already hasn't? Dude knows how to pitch. He's likely closer to a fifth starter at this point than the ace he used to be, but he can still deliver big performances. All three of the Cubs wins this season have come on the backs of strong starting pitching.

Another great day by the offense. They were patient, they let the Reds pitching staff clip them with some errant breakers, and they came up with the big hit when they needed it. Four games in this offense has not posted less than three runs on the board. That'll keep this team afloat while they sort through the bullpen issues.

As for that bullpen:

    • Dan Winkler: You got to be better than that, man. Big lead. Throw strikes. Do it right next time.
    • Nice job Rowan Wick. Get ready to close tonight.
    • That was the right spot to use Duane Underwood Jr. That is where he needs to come through with 1+ innings. I'm fine giving up the homer, with a big lead he was laying fastballs in the zone and forcing the Reds to hit it. A guy taking his first MLB at bat did. Good for him. I am a little concerned Underwood is mostly 94-95 in his first two outings. He's capable of touching 97 and he needs that little bit of extra juice. He struggled to command his secondaries, which only exacerbated the problem. He's got to re-establish feel for his changeup, and do it quick.
    • Nicely done, Ryan Tepera. You got Underwood out of a jam. Circumstances led to you staying in the game too long. I didn't like Ross extending you beyond 20 pitches in your first game action in a while. Don't think you were ready for it and it showed in the loss of command the further you went. All three pitches looked good though.
    • I'm still not sure what to make of James Norwood. His funky delivery leads to too much inconsistency. But I thought he was alright in this one. Yeah, a walk, but that two-run single he gave up woulda been caught by JHey and shoulda been caught by Souza. I mentioned the defense not delivering earlier.
    • It is difficult to find anything good to say about a closer who walks four guys and hits another. But Kimbrel was more consistently 95-97 than I've seen him in a Cubs uniform. That's a good sign and the Reds didn't put any good wood on his offerings. He got ahead of three and to two strikes on all four of the guys he walked, he just couldn't get anybody to chase out of the zone after that point. I didn't have time to check Statcast, but his arm slot looked low. I know they've mentioned that Kimbrel was working to make an adjustment in that area, so I'm not sure if this was intentional, or if he is still searching for it.

  • Jeremy Jeffress, that was as tough a spot as a reliever can be put in, and you got the needed result. You did manage to get a Reds hitter to expand with two strikes to get the big second out. The BABIP dragon was kind to you against Votto, but at least you threw two over the plate when you needed to. That is more than I can say for most of the Cubs relievers tonight.

I haven't given up on this group of righties. I still believe Underwood, Winkler, Tepera, Sadler, Jeffress, Wick, Kimbrel can function as a unit. But only if Kimbrel can find himself. If they are forced to move one of the others into the closer role it destabilizes everything. Need the big guy to pitch better.

New Rules

  • DH count: Caratini 2, Contreras 1, Schwarber 1

Filed under: Game Recap


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  • How has Nico done so far at the plate and in the field?

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    I guess I mean looked, as I could just check the stats.

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    He looks good. Chased in a couple at bats, but quality on others. He's a player.

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    He's been very aggressive. Which hasn't hurt him because in his first two starts he layed off breaking pitches and attacked fastballs. He didn't swing and miss at all in those games. He did whiff in his first AB last night and I think chased a couple of breakers for the first time. I missed a couple of his ABs last night though.

  • Phew!! That was a struggle.

  • Wow! That would have been flat out brutal if they had pissed that away.....ewwww!

  • That game had a strong déjà vu feel to it.

  • As someone who hasn't pay attention to the bullpen guys, thanks for this great wirte up.

    You say you still given up on a few of those of guys. Does that mean you would trust them coming in high pressure situatioh. Or does that mean, that you think they have the stufff to make a MLB bull pen?

    Also is there anyone in South Bend that you think could improve the bullpen

  • In reply to HJW49:

    Right now I have some faith in Wick, Ryan, Sadler, Tepera, Brothers. It seems like Jeffress is getting close. But none of those guys are going to consistently shut down the opposition. They really need Kimbrel to come around.

    There are guys in SB. Mekkes can get out righties. There are a couple more that could provide middle relief. But they are lacking a dominant RHRP. As sad as it is, Maples still provides the best hope there. Maybe they add Ryan Jensen or McAvene to SB at some point. But not sure either would be ready.

    The Cubs aren't as desperate from the left side, but I do think we see one or both of Carraway/Marquez by the end of the season. Both of them can get out guys from both sides and offer the potential dominating stuff the club currently lacks. Command/Consistency is the issue with them.

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    That was one of the worst performances of a bullpen I've ever seen. Kimbrel looked horrible. I can only imagine what Lester must have been going through. Still, a win is a win

    Hopefully some more of the offense will come around soon. Bryant, Baez and Heyward are a combined 5 for 44 so far.

  • Maybe Kimbrel just needs his beard back. I could see how that could throw off his entire motion (;-). Or how about getting him a parrot to pose on his arm, pre-pitch?

  • Four more Marlins test positive. Brings total to 15 players.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The question is, what are the Marlins doing or not doing different than the other teams?

  • I like the lineup vs. a lefty with the exception of Almora in CF. I’d just assume they give Happ more leash.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Happ is not as good as Almora vs LH pitchers. He may get there but not yet. Almora is also the better fielder by a bunch. Happ starts out at the warning track and can go back but is not very good on angles and coming in for short fly balls.

  • In reply to stix:

    Per Bleacher Nation: “For example, while Almora began his career as a lefty crusher, he actually struggled mightily against them last season, slashing .213/.254/.278 (37 wRC+) in 53 games (108 PAs).” That’s ugly.

    Is he a beater defender than Happ? That’s debatable. Almora is definitely not a “bunch” better.

    Happ is faster, more power, and way more upside. He can also switch to the other side when an inevitable pitching change occurs.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    There is no way Happ is close to Almora defensively. Happ hasn't proven he is a better hitter than Almora (if you take Almora tragic 2019 out of the equation) there isnt much difference. Power vs contact is about it.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Almora is on the short end of a platoon/4th OF as of today for a reason. Career average of .288 with .321 OBP without power isn't impressing many in the modern game.

    Almora isn't going to take BB's. What does the next step forward in his game even look like?

    Ian Happ might not be a starting CF for a playoff caliber team. His bat has more potential. Cubs need to give Happ a chance to prove he is part of the future. I thought the Cubs should have explored offering Happ a value driven extension this past off-season, if they still believed in him, and his potential.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Happ only has one advantage, he hits a home every 20+ AB's and Almora is every 40 AB's. If Almora OBP was .340 (10 more walks in a full season, which as a leadoff hitter would translate to 3 or 4 more runs per year) to go with a .288 avg he would be one of the best leadoff hitters the cubs have had.

    Yes Happ has a bigger up side. But if I am a pitcher (I was) i want Almora or in the case of last night, Hayward instead of Souza in the outfield. A very good outfielder can save a couple runs in one game.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Almora is a better defensive CF. You might be right about his bat, I just don't see it.

    I was wrong with the .288 average.
    Almora minor league average is .288 and minor league obp is .321
    Almora Major league average is .273 and his major league OBP is .311.

  • First off, I would put Jeffress in closer role and work Kimbrel back.

    As for the other guys who cant throw strikes, i think they have to take a hard look at everyone at South Bend. Carraway, Marquez, Hultzen, Abbott, Rucker, Steele all of them. Its to short of a season to mess around.

  • No lead is safe right now with this bullpen. Hopefully a few will come around in the next few weeks. 13 K’s last night and 12 K’s Sunday with many of them with men in scoring position. Not a good sign either.

  • It’s almost irresponsible to start these guys Mlb service clocks, unless the teams contending. But without the old kimbrel this pen is going to be a major question mark all year. So my question is how long until we see Brailyn Marquez or Burl Callaway? I know Callaway was just drafted but I wouldn’t be surprised at all of those 2 are already amongst the best options in this pen. This team may need both of those kids plus another high leverage reliever at the deadline before we can even begin to call this anything close to a playoff bullpen. Wish they were at least able to add relief help this offseason, rather then limited talents that cost less than $1 million per year. Frankly I’m surprised we got Jeffress that cheap, considering he was an all star just in 2018.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think they turn to Carraway before Marquez. I still think they view Marquez as a starter, and don't want to start his clock unless it is for a playoff push. If Carraway throws strikes in South Bend, he's MLB ready.

    Jeffress was throwing 96-97 in 2018. Battled injury last year and was throwing 93ish. He was a question. Right now still throwing 93, but he was quoted yesterday that he thinks he still has another couple of ticks available but he's still building up arm strength and confidence. Hasn't really let it fly yet.

  • Many good things about last nights game but i usually talk about those when we lose. I hate it when one of ours guys strikes out with a runner on 3rd and one out. Especially when all that we needed was contact with Jayy on 3rd. We need to play baseball and not just longball to play in Oct.!!!.

  • 8 BB's, 2 HBP & 6 hits over the last 4 IP. You'd never equate that with a win. Take it and run.

  • The mighty kb scratched again. Sore elbow.

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    Where is Ryan Jensen? Is he being groomed as a starter? I thought that he would start as a reliever and then be stretched out.

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