A Great Win and a Robust Bullpen and Other Bullets

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A Great Win and a Robust Bullpen and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

jake arrietaWith an early game yesterday and a late game tonight, we were the beneficiaries of more than 24 hours of beat-the-Cardinals-win-the-series-three-straight-win happiness.

  • Ricky Renteria tells Cubs.com that the plan is to stick with eight relievers on the roster, even after Jake Arrieta made his debut yesterday, pushing Carlos Villanueva to the pen (and Zac Rosscup back to Iowa), and even after Ryan Sweeney went down with a hamstring injury (replaced on the roster by Chris Coghlan, who I suppose offers similar versatility).
  • The Cubs have been carrying 13 pitchers since Justin Ruggiano injured his hamstring 11 days ago. The Cubs’ bullpen was stretched thin early in the year thanks to some ineffectiveness and extra innings, but now it seems like things have swung wildly in the other direction. Having depth in the bullpen is fantastic, but it can be hard to get innings for everyone (and you’re left with a short bench, which is especially tough with all of the Cubs’ platoons and, you know, being in the NL). For example, that one batter James Russell faced yesterday? That was the first batter he’d faced since April 23 – when he also faced just one batter. He has faced two batters in the last two weeks. Part of that could be a changing-of-the-guard situation, and also the acceptance of Russell as a LOOGY, as opposed to a full-inning setup man. But’s also a matter of there being only so many innings to go around. I’m not concerned yet – I just want to make sure that the young guys in the pen are actually going to be given enough innings to keep developing. So far, so good. But 13 pitchers is rare for a reason.
  • I’ll confess that I’m intentionally holding back my exuberance about how good Jake Arrieta looked yesterday. He had the shoulder issue, so that’s one reason. It was just one 5.1 inning start, so that’s another. And I know that he tantalized the Orioles for years with his obvious talent, so that’s a third. But, man, his stuff – both last year, and yesterday – just looks so good. He makes it very easy to see why people have, for years, dropped the front-of-the-rotation label on him, which is not a typical thing, especially for a 28-year-old with a career 5.16 ERA and 4.71 FIP. Is he finally going to turn that corner with the Cubs? Don’t do it, Brett. Hold it back. At least until midseason …
  • Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Arrieta yesterday (Cubs.com): “He had good life on the ball and it just wasn’t one side. He was moving the ball around, had a lot of movement going away from right-handed hitters, and times you could see them taking some uncomfortable swings.”
  • With his huge game yesterday, Junior Lake brought his wOBA and wRC+ nearly up to league average. And better yet, his strikeout rate dropped several percent … to 40.8%. As we’ve discussed, contact issues are a serious anchor around his otherwise robust talent right now, but the fact that he can have a nearly league-average wOBA while striking out 40.8% of the time? That means that when the dude hits the ball, he does serious damage. The contact issues can improve, and it was always possible that the extreme numbers this year were just a small sample size fluke. He’ll always strike out more than you’d like, but the K rate doesn’t have to come down all that far for Lake to be a net valuable player.
  • Something interesting to look for tonight: I’m going to guess that John Baker will start at catcher (Welington Castillo has caught four in a row), which will mark the fourth straight Jason Hammel start that Baker has caught. It might not quite be a “personal catcher” situation, but, hey, it’s been working, right?
  • Tony Andracki notes how much positivity some winning can bring into the clubhouse.
  • More on the win and resisting the urge to get too high from Sahadev Sharma.
  • Holy. Shit. This is the Cubs’ first three-game winning streak since LAST JULY. I knew it had been a while, but, man. I don’t type expletives for nothing.
  • Nicely played, Katie:

  • Lots of fun stuff today: after the Cubs switched several defensive positions at once yesterday, CSN’s cameras showed Ricky Renteria on the mound choreographing the switch, with some comical pointing. BN’er Andy not only GIF’d it, but he also added a little aural humor.

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Author: Brett Taylor

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