The Chicago Cubs bullpen in 2018 has already seen 171 innings of action, setting them on a pace for 513 innings through the first 135 games. That is not ideal if the Cubs want to make it a fourth straight NLCS appearance.
The downsides about the staff thus far are how they are striking out fewer batters, while somehow walking more than the previous two seasons. The upside is that they are allowing fewer home runs, and have a lower ERA. They are figuring out ways to strand more baserunners too. Carl Edwards, sans two appearances, has been nearly unhittable. Up until that point he carried a 0.53 ERA.
Cishek coming on strong
Another diamond in the rough has been the workhorse Steve Cishek. Cishek, in 22 innings-pitched, has a 1.71 ERA and has not allowed a home run yet this season. Strangely enough, his strikeout percentage is down, his walks are up, and yet he has just a .226 BABIP. The key, which the Cubs are still trying to find a solution to, is not to overwork Cishek.
The final piece, Brandon Morrow, has of course been lights out. Morrow has a 1.13 ERA, an excellent xFIP of 3.05, and is stranding runners at an 86.7% clip. Morrow does have a single blown save this season. That being said, it is merely a blip on the radar.
For the Cubs goal of dodging an overworked bullpen, the starters need to find a way to pitch deep into games. Tyler Chatwood has struggled with control most of the season so far has averaged five innings per start. Prized off-season Yu Darvish has found his way onto the Disabled List and has failed to perform to the standards of his contract. Darvish is also averaging just 5.0 innings pitched per start.
Cubs fans understand how the rest of the season is going to be pivotal. Naturally, as fans are aware for the previous three seasons, the Cubs are going to make an impact come October. You can’t have high expectations after three straight NLCS runs. That being said, it is imperative this teams starting pitching find its groove. Otherwise, the team inevitably finds itself back in the same spot: overworked and outmatched.
In October, that is a recipe for disaster, one the Cubs can’t make again.