Bullpen Dominating as Bats Slump, Kimbrel Earning Trust, and Other Cubs Bits | Bleacher Nation

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Bullpen Dominating as Bats Slump, Kimbrel Earning Trust, and Other Cubs Bits

Chicago Cubs

The wildfires out west are such a terrifying thing, in a year full of terrifying things, that it can be hard to keep it all up in your mind. Up to 12% of the ENTIRE POPULATION of Oregon has had to evacuate. The air quality on the entire west coast is so bad that people are urged to stay inside. If you’re the praying type, you’re going to want to pray for calm winds and rain as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what everyone out that way is going through.*

•   Craig Kimbrel got the 7th inning in a tie game last night, the highest-leverage moment he’s seen since his blown save against the Reds a few weeks ago. And not only did he get through the inning 1-2-3 with two strikeouts, he looked perfectly calm and good and fine out there. He looked like Craig Kimbrel, and he extended his Cubs record of consecutive appearances with at least two strikeouts.

•   Overall, since those first four outings when he was completely lost in his mechanics and essentially had to be shut down by the Cubs just to do side work and then practice in a couple blowouts, Kimbrel has been great:

•   The reality is that Kimbrel is not going to become the Cubs’ closer in the final two weeks of the season. Jeremy Jeffress has had results too strong, has been too consistent and calm, and things are clicking there. Even if the under-the-hood metrics suggest trouble could be coming for Jeffress, it’s just not realistic to suggest a change will happen. But what CAN happen is that Kimbrel could grab hold of a late-inning role – a guy who is always one of the first options for the 7th or 8th inning in a tight game – and that’s nearly as valuable. In fact, sometimes that inning winds up being the higher-leverage spot than the 9th. For me, I trust Kimbrel in those spots now, right there with Rowan Wick and Ryan Tepera.

•   Speaking of those names, do I dare mention that the Cubs are now tied for the 14th best bullpen ERA in baseball? Hooray, middle of the pack! I’m not even kidding with that hooray, given how things started – or have we already forgotten how hilariously horrible the bullpen was for the first couple weeks of the season while certain guys were getting shuffled around and Kimbrel was finding himself? Since August 1, the Cubs actually have the 6th best bullpen by ERA in baseball. Over the last two weeks, the Cubs bullpen ERA is 1.84, second best in baseball.

•   … of course, during that same stretch, the Cubs are hitting just .227/.305/.381, with the 9th worst wRC+ (83) in baseball. The universe of Cubs fan frustration is always in balance.

•   To be quite clear, the strike zone last night was very large for both teams, and inconsistently so. It was probably worst called zone I’ve seen this year. For what it’s worth, the reason it stood out as particularly bad for the Cubs, however, is because they were called out on a third strike that was likely outside the zone FIVE TIMES (that did not happen to the Brewers once). It stands out when it happens FIVE TIMES in a game.

•   Also: it’s easy to say “you should know the zone is big and you should protect” and all that, but the reality of humans who are reacting instantaneously is that they’ve trained their eyes and brain to know the strike zone as best they can, and apply it – again, instantaneously – to a moving pitch they are also trying to diagnose in that moment. You start trying to swing, intentionally, at pitches you know are outside the strike zone, and you eff up everything else you’re trying to do. These guys are trained and engrained not to swing at balls. It is bad to swing at balls. Why would we then punish them with our words when they, in fact, do not swing at balls? That’s on the ump, not the batters.

•   Don’t forget that sports betting is now live in Illinois (and several other states like Indiana, Iowa, Colorado, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), and with the NFL kicking off, I reckon a lot of you want to dip your toes in (if you haven’t already with the Cubs). Make sure you check out the offers here for getting into it, and you’re supporting BN in the process.

•   A very informative and comprehensive take on the changes coming to the draft next year, what it all really means, why it’s happening, and why it’s mostly probably good stuff:

•   Fanatics is having a huge sale this weekend, and you can see all their Cubs gear here (even some of their Cubs masks are on sale, which is the first time I’ve seen that).

•   This is really special:

•   Blessing your morning:

*(Ignore this if you don’t want to hear a non-sports take. I just can’t follow up the wildfire bit at the top without mentioning this: Longer term, I hope our leaders start listening to actual climate scientists and experts instead of just deciding they don’t agree with reality that humans are a factor in climate change, and that is a factor in what’s happening to the earth. The core science component of the climate discussion doesn’t have to be political. Yes, what we decide to do with that science has a political layer – and we’d all do well to admit that it’s complicated – but not the actual science, itself. It’s just facts and data and history! It’s like saying Kris Bryant’s expected wOBA and zone contact rate are political topics. Nah, that’s just factual info. Start there. Get on the same page there with the facts and data – here’s NASA, for example. Then we can figure out the best approach to balancing care for the planet with realistically living our lives.)

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.