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After a dreadful Cubs loss on Wednesday, I did what some apparently believe is the unthinkable and defended a unit that was being ripped apart on Twitter.

Many people questioned my sanity after that tweet. I understand why, to an extent; but I feel anger towards the Cubs bullpen, as a whole, is misguided. The major culprits have been Jose Veras and James Russell. The other heavily used relievers (Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon and Wesley Wright) have been anywhere from great to solid, depending on how glowing you want to be with your praise.

I think we can all agree that Grimm and Rondon have been very good thus far. I’d like to see Grimm’s 12.5% walk rate* drop as the season goes, but other than that, the pair have excelled out of the pen in the season’s first four weeks. Wright has looked very good, especially lately, but hasn’t really been used as a high-leverage lefty just yet. His positive performance is probably just as relevant as Brian Schlitter’s poor performance is in regards to evaluating the bullpen as a whole.

*Let’s keep in mind that every stat that I mention in this article is an incredibly small sample. You realize that, I realize that, we all realize that. My main point is to try and show how the bullpen has performed and what we can hope to see going forward, small samples be damned.

Really, the core of the pen early on in the season has been Grimm, Rondon, Strop, Veras and Russell. Let’s examine the latter three and try to accurately evaluate their performances as well as projecting how the bullpen can go from solid (what I tweeted and what I believe they’ve been thus far) to a legitimate strength of the team.

I think we can all agree that Veras’ performance in a Cubs uniform has been, well, not good. No matter what stat you look at, they’re nothing short of unacceptable. A 15.88 ERA, a rather weak 14.3% strikeout rate and a crazy 28.6% walk rate. Add in the fact that he’s hit three batters and Veras has allowed 37.1% of the batters he’s faced reach base due solely to his wildness (via walk or HBP). Like I said, his performance has been unacceptable. There is no debating that he has not done his job and then some.

What can be debated is what should be done with him. The Cubs ended that debate when they put him on the disabled list with a left oblique strain over the weekend. This is quite possibly the best case scenario as far as trying to get Veras back on track. By placing him on the DL, the Cubs can now take their time with Veras and allow him to work out the kinks in the minors when he finally gets healthy. The other option was to use Veras sparingly at the major league level solely in low-leverage situations. This would have meant fewer opportunities for Veras to get right and more chances for fans to release their angst over a bad team upon a poorly performing player.

And let me just add this: to suggest that after 5 2/3 innings work that we know for sure he can’t get back to the guy who has proven to be a solid set up man in previous seasons, label him a sunken cost and a DFA candidate, is the type of reactionary nonsense that gives bloggers a bad name.

Frankly, I think Veras (and to a lesser extent, the 1 1/3 innings Carlos Villanueva has pitched, which both resulted in extra inning losses) has skewed the general view of the bullpen. So much so that people think Pedro Strop has also been terrible. A quick look at Strop’s rates (33.3 K% and 16.7 BB%) show he’s not that far off from what Carlos Marmol used to be when Marmol was actually good. Of course, the walk rate is higher than anyone would like, but the high strikeout rate combined with his .143 batting average against make the walks a little more palatable.

Breaking down Strop’s outings, we see he’s had three two-walk outings. The first of those he faced just three batters, striking out one and took the loss after Russell came in, walked another batter and allowed the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run to score on a sacrifice fly. The next, he worked around his walks by striking out two and ending the inning on a harmless lineout. Like Marmol often did, Strop worked his way into trouble with the walk and managed clean up his own mess with the strikeout. It’s a fine line and one little mistake can make the whole thing look like disaster. And that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s ninth started with a four-pitch walk (I can’t stress this enough: that’s not acceptable and I’m not making excuses for Strop. Walks are a bad thing, but there are pitchers who have enough weapons to work around them often enough to be very good relievers. Strop has been and can continue to be one of those guys). Next was the error on Starlin Castro that should have at least been one out and very likely two. With Campana running, I understand Castro’s desire to want to rush that play. If you were paying attention during that series, Castro was very aware when Campana was running. He’d had at least two ground balls hit to him by Campana and in both cases there was no hesitation as he gunned the ball over to first. Those plays were very heads up by Castro, this one was just a case of him trying to do too much instead of getting the guaranteed out by stepping on second. I’m not gonna rip him for that, but this certainly isn’t on Strop.

But then, another walk. Then a strikeout (should’ve been the second out, but alas, only the first). Then that ridiculous single that bounced off second base to score two runs and then Strop just mows down one of the best bats in the league, Paul Goldschmidt, on three pitches, including a nasty slider to finish him off. That was it for Strop. What happened afterwards obviously wasn’t his fault, but eventually the tying and go-ahead runs score, and all most people can focus on are the walks Strop gave up. Imagine if Castro gets that one out? Then all we’d be talking about is how prime-Marmol-esque Strop is looking, getting in jams, then coming up huge in the clutch while looking nasty against the opposing team’s best hitter.

One mistake, one askew bounce of the ball, can change the whole discussion. Now after that outing, there are some who are saying that Strop, perhaps even the Cubs in general, can’t handle those last three outs. The whole thing just rings hollow, and is based on a complete lack of context. Outside of those two appearances where the walks bit Strop, he’s also had an appearance when he gave up two home runs (the wind was howling out and the Cubs were up by a good margin, so Strop may have been just trying to pound the zone and get some quick outs, but either way, it still counts). The bottom line is, when really looking at Strop, he’s appears to be a very solid part of the bullpen.

As for what role Strop should hold, I wouldn’t mind if he or Rondon were to close games. I like having the best reliever available to work any inning that may turn out to be the most important of the game, coming in with men on base or to face the heart of the order. While Strop most certainly can handle facing the heart of a team’s order, his tendency to hand out walks leads me to believe that he’s best used to start an inning (which is why I wouldn’t mind if he were to close) or in a situation with nobody on base.

Russell, on the other hand, is much harder to analyze. His velocity is down from the previous two Aprils about one mph, and walks are killing him right now (he’s at a 21.4% walk rate), but I have a hard time ripping him for Wednesday’s game. He faced one batter – what turned out to be the most important batter of the game – and appeared to do his job by drawing weak contact, but a seemingly catchable line drive fell in front of Justin Ruggiano in right field, allowing the tying run to score. But overall, Russell has seemed off and just inconsistent. Is it the downside of overuse? Just the random fluctuations of an average bullpen arm? Just the small sample size results of April being overanalyzed? I honestly don’t feel confident in any answer.

One thing I do know is I’d like to see Wright and Zac Rosscup start getting some chances in high-leverage situations in which Russell would normally get the call. Renteria appeared to be leaning more on Wright over the weekend (Russell hasn’t made an appearance since Wednesday’s disastrous game) and he performed quite well. Rosscup usually sits in the low nineties and has shown he can rack up the strikeouts (we’ll see what type of walk rate he puts up when used consistently at the big league level).

And that brings me to the reason I’m not concerned about the bullpen’s future. There are numerous power arms in the minors who could turn out to be very valuable at the big league level. Neil Ramirez was just called up with Rosscup, and there are many more after that pair: Alberto Cabrera, Marcos Mateo, Armando Rivero and eventually Arodys Vizcaino – who could turn out to be the most valuable of the bunch. The point is, there are plenty of options just a call away to help take a solid bullpen with a strong core of Grimm, Rondon and Strop and make the unit into a legitimate strength of the team.

To suggest this bullpen as a whole has been a disaster is just wrong. It’s too easy and frankly, a little lazy, to just say, “Haha, that’s so Cubs” and assume the relievers are a mess. There have been some hiccups and one glaring woe with Veras, but a closer look at the situation shows that things aren’t as dire as has been suggested. As I’ve said since it was clear no major additions were coming, the problem with this Cubs team is the offense, and, four weeks into the season, that’s the biggest reason this team sits at 8-16 – and will likely spend another trade deadline selling as they head toward 90-plus losses.

It’s easy to spout off stats like the bullpen’s 1-5 record and 39 walks allowed in 71 1/3 innings, but those numbers obviously don’t tell the whole story. They’re easily skewed by one bad stat line (Veras) or one poor outing. So I’ll say it again: the pen has been solid and has potential to be great. I don’t regret a thing.

  • ssckelley

    I think the bullpen has been good, the problem has been the closer and because of that everyone harps on the bullpen. I think the Cubs have a few really good arms in the bullpen right now, if someone like Rondon or Strop can step up and close then the pen is a strength of the team.

    • Brocktoon

      Russel has been awful and Strop really hasn’t been that good.

      But really it’s tough to tell much of anything considering we’re dealing with 10 inning samples.

      • Chad

        It’s comments like this about Strop that makes me wonder if you even read this stuff before commenting or just read the title then comment. Strop has had a couple of struggles, but outside a few outliers has been very good. This is where looking at averages or bulk statistics can be flawed. Yes they can tell you a lot about performance over a long period of time, but accounting for obvious outliers is pretty important too, especially in SSS situations (SSSS?)

        • Edwin

          Most RP look good if you simply remove “a few struggles” from their numbers when they’ve only pitched 10 innings.

          • Chad

            Not saying they don’t, but he hasn’t been bad either. Especially if you consider the defense behind etc.

            • Brocktoon

              His numbers are being propped up by an unsustainable .143 BAA. Marmol at his dead sexiest couldn’t pull that off.

      • Jon

        It’s another example of using sample size when one see’s fit.

        * The bullpen hasn’t been bad, just take a bad outing or two and viola “not that bad”
        * Relief Pitcher X would be great if not for this outing or that outing.

        Is Justin Grimm going to maintain that 93.3 LOB%? Rondon that 1.79 FIP?

        • Chad

          If you take out say the bottom 5% of outings you take off the top 5% of outings to look at the 90% interval then that is how you really should judge something. There are always outliers of good or bad and they stick out, but to say someone stinks if they had 1 bad outing out of 10 outings is wrong. That’s a 90% success rate so who wouldn’t take that?

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Bro, I think you’re doing FIP wrong

          • bbmoney

            On the plus side, I think Jon just got a shout out on Sahadev’s twitter……so he’s got that going for him….. Which is nice.

            • roz

              haha, I came back to this article precisely because of Sahadev’s tweet. I think you’re right.

            • Jon

              Ha, guess that makes me a popular guy thanks to the Cubs mouthpiece of everything positive. Plenty of other folks were also skeptical of this analysis as well. (You can technically cherry pick negative stats away for any team/any situation). But as he mentioned, he’s not going to waste his time debating any of these points.

              • bbmoney

                Critical of analysis is fine…. But the FIP part of the comment is at best incomplete. It’s got nothing to do with positivity or mouthpieces and everything to do with a criticism that appears to show a lack of understanding about what you’re trying to critique.

                Like the people who criticize catcher framing #s and making claims about what they don’t include….. When they do.

                • bbmoney

                  There’s nothing inherently unsustainable about anyone’s FIP. Perhaps you think his hr , k, or walk rate is unsustainable, but then just say that.

                • Jon

                  Yes, my point of FIP was wrong. But he does have other peripherals that could come down, which I should have referenced.(and even if they do he would still be pretty darn good as I like Rondon). But I’m here to eat it, not make statements like “That’s why I don’t comment, ..people just ramble”.

      • renegade4196

        Strop had one bad outing because he gets played every game and everybody wants to hang the guy. Strop has been 9 times out of 10 fantastic.

    • Funn Dave

      I like you, SSC, and some of your posts are pretty great, but you have this unfortunate habit of basically summarizing an article in the comments without really expanding on it at all. It’s almost like you have to comment on every article, even when you don’t have anything to say. It’s none of my business but I’ve been noticing it for a while and I just wondered what gives.

      • ssckelley

        So by saying that you fix the closers role then you fix the bullpen woes did not add anything or “expand” the conversation?

        But if I summarized that wall of text in 2 sentences I must be pretty damn good. :D

        • Funn Dave

          Good point. Time to start an accompanying blog: Baseball in Brief: An Exercise in Concision, by SSCKelley

          • ssckelley

            As long as you police the grammar for me I might consider it.

  • Edwin

    They have an ERA- of 108, FIP- of 120, and xFIP- of 113. They’ve been worth -.7 WAR by Fangraphs.

    Otherwise, yes. If you take out the bad performances by the bullpen so far, the bullpen looks ok. So if the Cubs RP’s pitch better going forward, and they call up some guys that also pitch well, then the bullpen should be better.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Excellent job living into the body (albeit a smart version) of the person Sahadev was addressing.

      • Edwin

        I think Rodon has been a very pleasant surprise. Grimm is also pitching well, which is nice, although his walk rate is a little high. Strop has been who he is, a guy with great swing and miss stuff who goes on stretches of not finding the zone. Wright has been ok, Schlitter Russell and Veras have all been disasters. The bullpen hasn’t been all terrible, and there’s a good chance it does better, mainly due to the fact that it’d be hard to be much worse.

        I admit, my comment above is lame, and too harsh. It’s a cloudy day outside.

    • Norm

      Would it be easier to say 5 of the 7 (sometimes 8) relievers have been solid, so knocking the bullpen (as a whole) can be misleading?

      • Edwin

        That’s fine. I’m fine with “The bullpen hasn’t been as bad as it seems”. I’m even fine with talking about how Veras’s bad performance has really overshadowed a great one from Rondon. My bigger problem lies in projecting a solid bullpen based on removing all bad performances from the equation, leaving in the great but possible unsustainable performances, and then projecting better or good performances from every arm they call up, and using that justify the Cubs bullpen becoming a strength this season.

        If anything, I’d say it’s too early to project the bullpen much either way.

  • Paddy26

    Even Schlitter hasn’t been terrible. In 4 of his 7 appearances, he hasn’t let up a hit or walk. He really only had one bad inning, and that was when Russell let up a home run to Alvarez to give Schlitter 3 earned runs. His WHIP is at 0.85, and overall I think people have been too harsh on him. One bad outing should be understandable.

  • Jon

    Personally, I never get the “take away the bad performance….” exercise.

    You can also take away a few bad BP performance’s for virtually every team in the league.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I think with the exception of Veres and to a lesser extent Russell the bulpen has been pretty good. It’s funny because Strop has looked good up untill that blown save opportunity. I think he was amped and was over throwing the ball. He has better stuff than Rondon, but Rondon seems to be able to find the strike zone in those high leverage situations. I have doubts about the game being played tonight. The forecast is for thunder showers.

  • Rebuilding

    So other than our closer, our primary lefty, and then the next closer (although he’s been bad it was because of a few bad bounces and the wind blowing out?) our bullpen has been good? I’m all for trying to be positive, but that’s laughable. Our bullpen through nearly 1/5th of the season is WORSE than replacement level.

    Up next, why the Cubs offense is better than you think if we discount the bad hitters…

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Are you telling me you aren’t falling for that lipstick on a pig trick?

      • willis

        Hopefully it’s not a pig much longer. If you give me a pen of Strop, Grimm, Rondon, Ramirez, Villanueva, Rosscup and Wright…that’s a good pen.

        • Rebuilding

          I like what I’ve seen from Grimm and Rondon. Every pen, even the terrible ones like ours, has a few young arms with potential. But calling what you laid out a “good pen” when 2 of the 7 are in Triple A, one is a swing starter, one has had trouble throwing the ball over the plate (and has been hurt by it – whether by bad hops or wind) and one (Wright) we really have no idea about in a leverage situation, is a bit much

          • willis

            It’s because I’m so high on Ramirez and Rosscup out of the pen, that when I can include them full time as a core piece, I view the pen as legit. This team needs to fiind a way to trash Russell and Veras. Villanueva and Wright are meh, but servicable in the right situations. The other 5 though are who I really like.

            • Rebuilding

              Fair enough. I like those 5 arms as well, but until we see them in a few more pressure situations it’s hard to know what we’ve got. If there is one thing the FO has been terrible at all 3 years of their tenure it’s building a bullpen. There are all sorts of excuses for it (lack of pitching talent in the upper minors when they arrived, not wanting to spend money on it when we are bad, and so on), but it is what it is. Until we actually have a bullpen that is performing AVERAGE I’m not going to count on the woulda, coulda, shoulda

        • baldtaxguy

          These names work for me very much. I’d like to see this makeup happen sooner than later, i.e. move Veras and Russell out.

        • terencemann

          yeah, if they just use their best relievers, it should be at least average. The Cubs have shown they can cobble together and average rotation. If they are average at run prevention and Baez and co. do what we hope, that’s a damn good team.

          I don’t think they don’t need to work on pitching, I just think the clear area for improvement now is run scoring.

          • Brocktoon

            We’ve shown no ability to cobble together an average bullpen the last 2 seasons.

        • Funn Dave

          Potentially. Like the rest of the team, the pen has a lot of unproven potential, both on the team and on the farm.

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          Russell is signed for $1.78 million for this year. Unfortunately Veres was signed for 4 million. If Russell was released he would most likely get picked up by some team and the Cubs would be on the hook for the difference. With Veres that would be more difficult. It’s a damn shame that we have nearly 7 million invested in those two guys and have better and cheaper options available. For the Yankees a 7 million dollar blunder is just like a hicup, but I imagine if Theo were to just release those two guys now it would go over like a fart in church. Realistically those two guys are doing their jobs which is to lose enough ball games that we pick in the top three next year. That is the inconvenient truth that loyal fans seem to have trouble coming to grips with.

          • Funn Dave

            Then show me, please, where in their contracts it says that they are to lose games.

          • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

            “but I imagine if Theo were to just release those two guys now it would go over like a fart in church”

            So we would all laugh really hard, for a prolonged period of time??

            • Funn Dave

              Hahaha, yup.

    • terencemann

      Here’s the current bullpen:
      Strop, 3.48
      Rondon, 0.73
      Grimm, 0.82
      Russell, 4.76
      Wright, 2.08
      Rosscup, 0 (1.2 IP)
      Ramirez, 0 (1 IP)
      Sclitter, 5.14 (will be gone to make room for Arrieta)
      which means
      Villanueva, career 3.72 ERA as a reliever

      So it’s pretty good if you’re looking at their primary guys and I think Russell will turn it around because lefties have been doing well against him for some reason this season even though he’s been dominant against them in the past.

      • Brocktoon

        Their FIPs tell a worse story across the board.

  • willis

    I do agree with a lot of this. The power arms in the cubs pen have been pretty damn good. And I also have high hopes for Ramirez. Add those four to Rosscup and that should be the real core of the pen. 5 live arms.

    Russell is done, and hopefully he’s disposed of soon. I like Wright ok, but I like Rosscup’s stuff much more from the left side. As far as Veras…I don’t know. He’s terrible, but he’ll be back soon enough. I just don’t know how many more outings and how much longer a team can carry a guy with a double digit ERA and that type of walk/hit batter rate.

    • terencemann

      I just think Russell is a LOOGY and nothing more. They need to stop pitching him against RHP. His ERA this season is what it is because he has a strange reverse split where lefties have been killing him but he’s been effective against RHB. I think that points to some (good) regression where he’ll do better against LHB and bring his numbers down.

  • Jon

    Rondón is a great example of one of the market inefficiencies you can take advantage of if you are a really bad team. Grabbing rule 5 guys (and hiding them in the pen)even if they probably aren’t ready for a 25 man. As a team with winning aspirations can’t make this roster sacrifice Worked with Rodon. Lendy Castillo, well, maybe not so much.

  • Medicos

    Don Sterling, the former Donald Tokowitz, an 80-yr-old Chicago born Jew, certainly won’t be invited to his friend Jerry Reinsdorf’s HP residence for Rosh Hashonah dinner this fall. Hopefully, sometime in the future, he’ll be completely through with his ownership of the LA Clippers.

  • ConnecticutCubsFan

    Hello. This is slightly off topic but I couldn’t find another place to ask this. Is there any place to get cheap Cubs tickets for their series vs the Cardinals July 25th-27th? I’m going with my dad and this will be our first trip to Wrigley ever. We have tickets to the Friday game, but wanted tickets to the Saturday and Sunday games as well without spending the outrageous prices on ebay and stubhub. Any help would be awesome, thanks!

    • Jon

      Sadly, even with the Cubs woes this year, I don’t think you will find a cheap market for those games. Wrigley is going to be packed to the brim with Cardinals fans (*grabs vomit bag)

      • ConnecticutCubsFan

        I purchased 2 tickets 2nd row behind the Cubs dugout for the Friday game at what I thought was a pretty good price. I waited a few weeks later and all those tickets for the Saturday and Sunday games went up a good $50-$150 each.

        • ssckelley

          Those are people trying to cash in on Cardinal fans.

    • ssckelley

      Oh, did you check hte message board? There was some guy (I think named Joe) who was pimping his 2 season tickets.

      • ConnecticutCubsFan

        I haven’t checked it out yet, but I will. Are there any good seats perhaps not as expensive as right behind the Cubs dugout?

        • Brocktoon

          The only terrible seats in Wrigley are 10 rows into the 200 section.

        • ssckelley

          His seats are in the nose bleeds, but are next to the press box behind the plate. They looked like a very good view, just need nice weather as it gets friggin cold up there.

  • OCCubFan

    A bullpen is no better than its weakest link. Run four relievers into a tight game and if three are perfect, but just one of them sucks, you probably lose the game.

    Thus, the Cubs’ bullpen is much better without Veras (at least the one that we have seen so far).

  • willis

    One other thing about the bullpen that has me more positive than negative…Vizcaino. I would imagine he’ll be heading to Iowa soon, and if he holds up there he could be an addition in maybe 6 or so weeks.

  • newsguy23

    You can find a silver lining in almost anything. The bullpen has blown games. They need a dominate closer. Give Rondon the shot. Strop walks people and give me Marmol flashbacks.

    • Funn Dave

      *dominant

      -BNGN

  • Napercal

    The Cubs pitching as a whole has been very respectable this year. There are a number of young talented pitchers in the bullpen who are “figuring it out”. I suspect that young bullpen pitchers feel extra pressure knowing that the Cubs offense is almost non-existent. They feel a need to be perfect. Hopefully some of the young hitters in the minors will start creeping into the line-up and prove they can hit major league pitching. A Jose Abreu-like performance would be nice at some point.

  • Politijim

    Ok. I’ll put down the noose and gun.

    I do appreciate the analysis. I was certainly falling into the trap of thinking the whole bullpen barrel was rotten. Maybe we are only 1.5 bad apples away from a digestible group that will at least be divisionally competitive. In fact, with the improvement of Rizzo, Castro and the potential continued production of Bonifacio – I still maintain Cubs will gel sometime before July to be better than mediocre. Too much talent on the field IMO if clubhouse (and managerial) leadership develop.

    Too often we forget that talent alone doesn’t win. (Just look at the Bulls post-Deng season vs a talent heavy Knicks club). Teamwork and attitude have a lot to do with winning and – as a team – they still really don’t have an identity or a mutual belief in each other or what they can do as a club.

    If you’re correct that the fundamentals are there in the bullpen (minus Veras), we will finally be able to pass judgement on Rentaria’s coaching ability to develop some inner tenacity in these kids.

    Thanks again.

  • KHRSS

    The bullpen has not been that bad, but they have been bad when it matters.

  • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

    1) Couldn’t all MLB teams use the same logic, put context to a few bad-terrible outings, or remove just the bad apples, and call their bullpen “a strength?” Where do draw the line – 2 relievers removed from the example? 3?

    2) Seems we try awfully hard to explain away the weaknesses, to say, “There are numerous power arms in the minors who could turn out to be very valuable at the big league level… Alberto Cabrera, Marcos Mateo, Armando Rivero and eventually Arodys Vizcaino… The point is, there are plenty of options just a call away to help take a solid bullpen with a strong core of Grimm, Rondon and Strop and make the unit into a legitimate strength of the team.”

    Again, can’t other teams make (and do) pretty much the same analysis and make the same claims? Some with actually better pitching prospects than the Cubs, if we feel the BA-Scouting rankings have validity, and the Cubs organization has plenty of batters, but few pitchers that merit inclusion?

    3) If all things being equal, wouldn’t those teams too just call up their power prospect arms? Then the case for creating a strength is nullified by the fact what you allegedly gain is offset (in general) by other teams having (and doing) the same trick? Do the Cubs have a Neftali Feliz-like talent?

    It is why you certainly like to pick the good apples, toss the rest, and choose some more apples. But everyone else is doing that too.

    4) Create a BP analysis for us that properly gauges worth in relation to others’ woes or effectiveness. If just 4 out of 24 games are affected by pen’s usage decisions, then up to 27 games per season are up to them. It matters quite a bit if the final record is 20-7 or 7-20. If you are 70-65 in the other games you are either a contender, or an also ran. If you are 60-75, you pretty much get what you got now… even if they are 13-14 or 10-17, or 0-27.

    The underlying statistics may be good for some – but leave it to the Cubs to sequence things to get the -2 or -3 S.D. of the outcome.

    That’s all.

    • Brocktoon

      To double down on #2, Cabrera and Mateo were just this spring available for free to anyone who wanted them and they made it back to Iowa

      • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

        Yep. Your right there. Every team has those types of guys…it’s just a matter if they work out.

        Think of poor Arizona – they’ve got their teeth kicked in pretty good by the injury bug. And swapped Tyler Skaggs too for the now injured Trumbo.

        And again, thanks for a comment a few days ago.

  • JasonP

    This is the problem that will always exist with bullpen stats. Even throughout a season, a lot of guys don’t get any more than 50 innings or so. Giving up one solo HR late in the season can mean a noticeable jump in ERA for a pitcher that has been used fairly regularly. Even the best starters have innings where they give up 3 or 4 runs from time to time.

    Veras’ ERA will drop, drastically, even if he is just mediocre the rest of the way. Rondon and Grimm will not, by any means, sustain ERAs that low; in both cases their ERAs will double the next time they give up a run.

    The advanced/peripheral stats were given above, but I think that the classic stats still tell the story pretty well. The Cubs are a bad team, they’ve converted less saves (2) than any other team in the majors, and they’ve blown twice as many as they’ve saved; but they’ve also had fewer save opportunities than everyone but Tampa. It’s also worth noting that the Pirates have already blown 6 saves, 2 more than the Cubs. The bullpen ERA is pretty average (18th in the Majors at 3.91) but the bad results have come in the high leverage situations, which stings all the more because there just haven’t been enough opportunities to win.

    If the bullpen was near perfect, this could be a near .500 team in April, but that’s just never going to happen.

    • DCF

      A perfect bullpen never exists for anyone. Sure, sometimes teams get lucky and of course, great teams tend to have better “failed starters” as BP fodder than bad teams do, but that’s about it.
      I tend to think,that BP performances are way overrated. A blown save really stinks and if it happens 3 times in a row, all hell breaks loose. But realistically, “saves” are quite rare and therefore subject to wild swings. It is well known, that even among “proven closers” and the like, there is really little year-to-year correlation of their performances.

      Also, while blown saves catch all the spotlight, they aren’t really that important to the W/L record as whole. The whole argument “If x more saves had been converted, x more games would have been won” is close to being pointless.
      Had the offense scored 2 more runs in the innings before, it probably would not have even been a save opportunity.
      And a “save opportunity” with a one-run lead has a win expectancy of far below 99,9% anyway, despite what the casual fan like me would like to believe.

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