The Cubs bullpen has caused many heartaches, gray hairs and collective breaths to cease. Dempster and Garza pitched gems in the first two games of the 2012 season, carrying late game leads against the Nationals, while Cubs fans helplessly watched as the bullpen seemingly gave the games away. From this moment on, fans have been overly critical and skeptic whenever a reliever begins to warm-up.
The bullpen is 3-7, with 4 SV, a 3.90ERA, in 80.2IP. Collectively, the have allowed 70H, 35ER, 45BB, 6HR and struck out 61 batters. Most notably, the bullpen has given away 3 games in which the Cubs should have walked away with a win, squandering the lead late in a game. They have also been credited with 4 additional losses when the game has either been tied or the Cubs held a 1-run lead.
To Manager Dale Sveum’s credit, he has given every player on the active roster time to adjust to the 2012 season before making any roster moves. However, Marmol’s latest meltdown prompted Sveum to finally address the bullpen woes.
After Marmol single-handedly cost the team yet another win in a 3-4 loss to the Reds in extras, Sveum announced a change at the closer position, designating Russell and Dolis as a closer-by-committee duo.
Three righties: Dolis, Bowden and Camp, and a lefty: Russell, are now the perceived bullpen rotation. The four relievers have a combined record of 3-3, a 2.37ERA, allowed 14ER, 15BB and 30SO in 48.0IP. In last nights’ come from behind victory, Camp, Russell and Dolis combined for 5.0IP, allowing 3H and no runs or walks. This is exactly how the bullpen needs to conduct business day-in and day-out.
The Cubs batters have proven the ability to get hits and score runs throughout the season, as the team has yet to be shutout. The pen allowed for the hitters to come through late in the game, tie the score and ultimately win in extras. Had the pen been able to perform in this manner earlier in the season, the Cubs could be sitting atop the NL Central, with a record of 18-10.
I would still like to see the Cubs acquire a more experienced closer, one who has confidence and can also mentor a young future potential closer. But for now, at least Sveum finally booted Marmol and I’m certain the front office is looking for trade potentials. I just hope Russell and Dolis can carry the load for the interim.
In an expected move, the Cubs traded CF Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Michael Bowden (RP). The move signaled an important stepping stone for the 2012 season and beyond: Theo Epstein and company are watching the season and are willing to make moves.
Epstein’s rebuilding theme has continued into the first month of the 2012 season. He moved an aging Byrd, who is struggling this season, for a young relief pitcher in a system which is in dire need of bullpen help. The move is encouraging as many fans agree that Byrd is on the decline of his career and the team needs to build for the future. With the glaring focus beginning with the bullpen.
The Cubs bullpen carries a dismal 4.63 ERA (26th in the league), allowing 24 ER (6th most in the league), issuing 29 walks (tied for 3rd most in the league), a WHIP of 1.56 (26th in the league) and is credited with 5 loses (tied for 2nd most in the league). Had the bullpen not blown those leads, the Cubs would be 9-7, 2nd place in the NL Central and giving the Brewers and Reds both an additional loss, rather than wins.
Epstein and Ricketts know the numbers as well, this being why they made the trade and were willing to swallow a large portion of Byrd’s remaining contract. The organization is focused on the future; something many fans of the Cubs are not accustom to.
This move should be an indicator of additional issues the Cubs ownership should be addressing sometime within this season, such as:
The lack of a power hitter – The team is ranked last in the entire league for home runs hit with five (5). Even the Pirates have hit more home runs, who boast the worse offense in the league. Many fans are pleading for Rizzo and Jackson to be called up to the majors, but Gordon Wittenmyer interviewed Epstein who indicated the organization is waiting to move either player to the majors. Brian Davis and Andy Behrens further suggest the organization should wait to move either player with statistical analysis to support their reasoning. These reports would indicate Epstein and his staff will look at possible trades throughout the season to solve this problem.
An aging roster – The Cubs roster has eight players who are over the age of 30; six of which will be over the age of 35 before the All-Star break. Young promising talent is crucial for the development of this ball club within the next three years and into the next decade. Epstein developed such a talent pool in Boston and will likely carry on this tradition within the Cubs organization. The trade of Byrd was the first step in this direction.
It’s encouraging to see the organization recognize glaring problems and addressing them within the first month of a long season. I’m certain the ownership will continue to make moves to improve the Cubs in the years moving forward.
Only time will tell.