Chicago Cubs’ bullpen looks to improve in 2015


As of right now, the Chicago Cubs are currently ranked 17th in the league with a bullpen ERA of 3.66. Now that might not be all that appealing to some, which is completely understandable – but it’s an improvement compared to their previous campaigns.

Last year the bullpen ranked among the worst in nearly every pitching category there is – 213 earned runs (23rd),  226 runs (20th),  210 walks (25th), 4.04 ERA (25th), and 418 strikeouts (27th) through 474 innings of work.

Again, these numbers are slightly better than the stats that they put up during their 2012 season where they led the entire league with 259 walks.

This year things weren’t all that bad as the club took baby-steps in the right direction. The Cubs improved the numbers in each category listed above – even finishing in the top 10 with 501 strikeouts on the year. With three games left to play beginning tonight against the Brewers, the bullpen has been charged with 213 earned runs, 200 walks, 501 strikeouts, and 35 saves (Rondon 27) with a batting line of .313/.345/.659.

There appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the closers role after news broke that the club had signed reliever Jose Veras to a one year contract. Veras gave up a whopping 10 earned runs, and blew two saves in his first six appearances with the Cubs – so what appeared to be a knight in shining armor, turned out to be nothing but a complete bust.

The former Detroit Tiger would lose his job to 26 year old right-hander Hector Rondon (4-4, 2.49 ERA) and would later be released after being designated for assignment just six days prior. Rondon, who would prove to be one of the best arms available, was picked apart by the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins in the month of June – combining for eight earned runs with one home run in 1 2/3 innings.

It didn’t necessarily take him that long to buckle down to find his rhythm as he has been nearly impossible to score on allowing just four earned runs in three months going into this weekend.

We’ve seen two starting pitchers get bumped out of the rotation and sent straight into the bullpen at some point this season. Veteran’s Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson just so happen to be these two unlucky players who were demoted.

Villanueva (5-7, 4.64 ERA) started off the year 1-5 with a jaw dropping 9.47 ERA before moving to the pen where he actually didn’t do all that bad-ish as his innings were limited. Before making a spot start in July, Vallanueva had only allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 22 hits while issuing nine walks and striking out 21 batters across 24 2/3 innings.

Jackson (6-15, 6.38 ERA) on the other-hand is yet to make a relief appearance for the team after dropping what could have been his final outing as a starter with the Cubs on September 19 against the Dodgers.

With all these rookies coming up this season, and the franchise expecting more to come up next season, the runs are going to slowly but surely begin to pile on for this offense – which means the bullpen is going to need to improve even more as time goes on. Neil Ramirez is one of those rookies who made their debut with the big league club this season.

Ramirez (2-3, 1.51 ERA) made his Major League debut on April 25 against the Milwaukee Brewers and hit the ground running. He’s proved to be a promising arm, holding the opposition to just 11 runs (seven earned) on 29 hits with 16 walks, and 51 strikeouts in 41 2/3 frames of work this season.

You can’t expect your club to be successful if the arms in your bullpen are giving up a massive amount of earned runs and walks, period. Expectations within the organization and it’s fans are high, so the guys in the bullpen such as Wesley Wright, Pedro Strop, Brian Schlitter, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Justin Grimm need to sharpen up if they want to become either a solid piece of this team.

There’s no doubt that Chicago will look to add a starting pitcher, that man possibly being Jon Lester – but don’t be surprised if they sign an arm or two to help anchor the bullpen with Rondon.