Is the fact that the Chicago Cubs’ have so many right-handed pitchers in their bullpen going to be an issue during the 2017 season?
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon announced the order for his starting rotation for the beginning of the 2017 season. Four of the five starters were already set in stone, as they were in the rotation last season.
Joining Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks in the rotation is Brett Anderson. Anderson, 29, most recently pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 and 2016. With Anderson joining the rotation, left-hander Mike Montgomery will begin the season as a reliever.
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Although Montgomery has the ability to start, he may be needed much more in the bullpen. As of today, the Cubs only have two other lefty relievers on their depth chart. Realistically, the team could cut both lefties in Brian Duensing and Caleb Smith before Opening Day.
The Cubs could carry 13 pitchers on their roster, which would help make the bullpen less right-handed dominant. After all, most of their position players are versatile and capable of playing multiple positions.
Carrying multiple position players on one’s bench is less necessary for a team as versatile as the Cubs. However, this is not the issue that the team is up against. Currently, six of the nine relievers on the depth chart (including Montgomery) are righties.
On the one hand, having so many right-handed pitchers could be troublesome; if an opponent’s lineup is lefty-heavy, the Cubs won’t have the relievers to match an opponent late in games. Furthermore, an opponent could pinch-hit more left-handed hitters than right-handed to expose the Cubs’ bullpen.
At the same time, the Cubs righty relievers have had much success against left-handed hitters in the past. In 2016, Wade Davis had a 1.21 ERA against lefties; Carl Edwards Jr. had a 1.29 ERA, while Koji Uehara had a 2.70 ERA.
Essentially, every right-handed Cubs reliever has shown he is capable of limiting damage against left-handed opponents. While having an equal amount of lefties and righties is simpler, the Cubs bullpen is strong regardless. If all goes as planned, the bullpen should be strong once again in 2017.