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Bust Risks Aplenty in the Bullpen for the Cubs, Apparently, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

All went well yesterday with the colonoscopy, and I’m all clear for another five years. My dad died of colon cancer in his early 40s, so I started getting these when I was 25. Inconvenient and uncomfortable? Yeah, sure. But a very small and infrequent price to pay for peace of mind. If and when your doctor recommends it, my friends: just do it.

  • At FanGraphs, a study examining reliever bust rates in a given season – specifically, how likely a “good” reliever is to provide no value in a given season, despite decent projections. It’s an attempt to put some data to our long-held belief that relievers are so volatile from year to year, and it really does demonstrate the truth in that … except for “elite” relievers (guys projected for 1.4 WAR or greater). Of that elite group, only 15% busted out in 2016 (0.3 WAR or less), where as 50%(!) of “good” relievers (projected for 0.7 to 1.3 WAR) busted out. It’s amazing to see it laid out like this, because it so closely aligns with what we believed to be true about “elite” versus “good” relievers.

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  • In case you’re wondering, by Steamer, the Cubs have no relievers projected for more than 1.3 WAR. Wade Davis projects for 1.1, Hector Rondon and Koji Uehara project for 0.8, Pedro Strop projects for just 0.6, Carl Edwards Jr. projects for just 0.5, and Justin Grimm projects for just 0.4. Woof. Are we in for yet another year where we are surprised by the struggles in the Cubs’ bullpen in the first half of the year, despite what appeared to be a great group on paper? (Part of the reason that’s happened for the Cubs in recent years is because so many of the “expected to be good” guys busted out, while other minor leaguers and depth pieces wound up stepping up by the second half – it takes time to sort that out, because you’ve gotta give the established guys some time to find their footing (*if* they’re going to find their footing).)
  • Rondon and Strop, in particular, remain big question marks for the Cubs this year, after their seasons ended with injury and ineffectiveness. When they’re feeling good and feeling right, they are two of the best relievers in baseball. It isn’t at all difficult to imagine a return to their dominance, and then the Cubs have one of those ridiculous lockdown 7-8-9 inning trios (to say nothing of Edwards, whom I believe could easily emerge at that level this year). I don’t think you can count on that happening as we sit here today, but it’s certainly more than plausible.
  • Buster Posey offers some cautious words for Kyle Schwarber in his hopes to continue catching after a serious leg injury (Tribune). Posey notes that it was two years before he really felt solid again after the 2011 ankle injury that ended his season (and indirectly led to the can’t-block-the-plate-without-the-ball rule that everyone is so chill about).

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  • When the Cubs traded for Alec Mills this week, they also designated lefty David Rollins for assignment – again – to make room on the 40-man roster, and he found out literally three days after arriving in Mesa to join the Cubs for Spring Training. Jerry Crasnick has more on Rollins’ tumultuous offseason, and the real-life difficulties that the DFA shell game can play on a guy like Rollins, who is not a career big leaguer with millions of dollars squirreled away. Instead, Rollins has to think about things like buying new gear in the right colors at the last minute, or how to ship all his stuff to Florida if he’s claimed by a team that trains there.
  • A really interesting read here from some up-and-down pitchers on what they perceive to be the differences between big league baseballs and minor league baseballs. We know that there are differences in the construction, and those differences could be – in these pitchers’ view – causing things like more carry on fly balls in the big leagues.
  • Longtime Tigers owner Mike Illitch passed away on Friday at age 87. Illitch, who also owned the Red Wings, bought the Tigers in 1992, and continuously pushed the organization toward a championship that did not come in his lifetime. Although some of the moves were probably improvident, Illitch always seemed to back up his urgency with his checkbook, and he was a very well-regarded owner in Detroit.

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  • Michael took a look at Babe Ruth through a more modern statistical lens, and … yes, he was stupid good.

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.