Since it’s the Dreaded Topic of Death Du Jour, I thought some stray notes on the bullpen would be appropriate today …
- You can almost feel the strain in Joe Maddon every day that he’s now tasked with talking about that day’s bullpen awfulness:
Maddon: "My message to the relief pitchers…is to not try to be so fine. We're trying to be too fine with everything." Brad Brach admitted as much today as well. B. Kintzler is a great example of keeping it simple. Forget scouting reports, just pitch.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) April 4, 2019
- As he said after the game to the Tribune: “We just got to get our bullpen in order. No question we got to play a more complete game of baseball, and we will. We just got to get the bullpen defined.” I am not looking forward to Joe Maddon having to say the same things again in May. And June. And July. And muttering it to himself in December.
- The relievers are hearing the message, at least:
Brad Brach on walk issues: "After last nights game I was thinking I'm just trying too hard. Trying to throw the best possible pitch every time. Just over throwing. Trying to make a good impression. Just have to take a step back and get back to basics."
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) April 4, 2019
- For his part, after the total loss of control the other night, Steve Cishek told the Tribune he thinks “my arm slot was higher than usual, especially on breaking pitches because they were breaking down more. In my head I’m thinking I’m landing too early. And then when I try to land deeper on the mound, the ball will sail the other way.” Sure enough, his vertical release point was way higher than usual. So, hopefully that can be fixed rather quickly.
- Mike Montgomery got wrecked again last night, and that’s really been his problem so far: for a guy who made his bones as a groundballing contact manager, your eyes pop a bit to see a 23.1% groundball rate, a 7.7% soft contact rate, and a 53.8% hard contact rate. His velocity and spin rates look normal for him, his release points look consistent, etc. It’s not quite obvious to me why he’s getting absolutely smoked in the air right now.
- Carl Edwards Jr. was wild as heck again last night after a nice, composed appearance in his last outing. I’m not sure the Cubs can withstand his modest 50.0% walk rate for too long …
- Hey, at least there was this out of the bullpen last night:
Tyler Chatwood: first appearance with #Cubs without a walk
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 5, 2019
- But what about changes to the bullpen mix? How when might might that come? Theo Epstein said on Wednesday – that was before two more bad nights for the bullpen – that he remains focused on the guys who are already on the roster (The Athletic): “We’re not thinking about making changes or thinking about anybody besides the guys who are here. We’re just trying to get guys lined up the right way and get them comfortable in roles and have them be effective. Usually, right around this time when everyone’s calling for changes, they go out and put up some zeros and it’s onto the next storyline. We just have to get to that point.”
- I tend to think this was just Peter Gammons penning a broader piece about pitchers coming back from overseas, but it’s possible he let something slip:
Did @pgammo just break that Allen Webster will be joining the Cubs bullpen in the coming week, or was he just writing artfully (and broadly) about pitchers who return from overseas? Full piece here: https://t.co/LGdWSGUGE1 pic.twitter.com/u4JeQawmQX
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 5, 2019
- If the Cubs *did* make an internal change, Webster should be the guy who gets the call if the Cubs truly believe he was one of the most impressive arms in the Spring. Finding a 40-man spot for him is not hard, and you can’t worry right now about what happens if he stinks and you want to demote him (he has no minor league options left).
- Other guys at Iowa who could conceivably be given a shot soon include Dillon Maples (who comes with wildness risks), James Norwood (who comes with wildness risks), Dakota Mekkes (who comes with wildness risks), Kyle Ryan, Tim Collins, and Rowan Wick.
- As far as I am aware, injured signees Tony Barnette and Xavier Cedeño are not close to being ready to join the big league bullpen, so you can kinda set them aside for now. Until they’re pitching at Iowa on a rehab stint, they aren’t going to be a consideration.
- In conclusion, the bullpen leaderboard. Happy Friday: