Chicago Cubs: Pitching staff quickly gets things turned around

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Bullpen provides much-needed relief

The Cubs bullpen woes to start the season are no secret to anyone. It’s safe to say that the bullpen alone single-handedly cost the Cubs three wins in their first nine games. I don’t know what the issue was, but they couldn’t hold the lead.

Carl Edwards Jr. struggled the most, even with his new, illegal windup that was supposed to help him with his control. He made four appearances and pitched just 1 2/3 innings to the tune of a 32.40 ERA, by far the worst in the Cubs bullpen. He showed no signs of control, walking five batters and allowed two home runs.

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If Edwards wasn’t blowing the lead, it was Mike Montgomery. He pitched in four games and posted a 16.87 ERA by allowing five earned runs. Usually very reliable, Montgomery served up two home runs before being placed on the injured list, where he’s been since April 6.

Edwards and Montgomery led the Cubs bullpen to an 8.37 ERA, the second-worst in the league. They surrendered a league-leading 27 walks at a 7.3 BB/9 ratio. They simply couldn’t be trusted to come into late game situations and protect the lead, let alone throw strikes.

For the bullpen, it all got better when they sent down Edwards and called up Kyle Ryan on April 6. Since being called up Ryan has been quite a pleasant surprise for the Cubs bullpen. He has a 1.86 ERA over the last 22 games, and he has struck out 14 batters while walking just four. He’s made a huge difference and has been the best Cubs left-handed reliever without question.

Brandon Kintzler’s bounce-back season has also been a major reason for the bullpen’s recent success. He’s posted the lowest ERA of any Cubs reliever since April 8 at 0.75. He’s allowed just one run on a solo home run while striking out nine batters. Kintzler has been effective at getting ground ball outs, and he’s already got batters to ground into four double-plays.

The bullpen has certainly turned it around since the start of the season and is much more reliable now. Since April 8, the Cubs relievers have posted a 2.23 ERA, the best in all of baseball. It helps to have guys throw strikes, and they have cut down their walks in the late innings. I’m far more comfortable with a lead late in the game with the bullpen now as opposed to the first few weeks of the season.

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It truly has been a remarkable turnaround for this pitching staff. They have essentially gone from the worst unit, based on a lot of metrics, to one of the best in a little less than a month. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as the Cubs have pitched better, they have seen more success. If they continue to pitch at this high level, the Cubs will be a dangerous team this season.

#BLAZEKSTRONG #NVRQT

*Stats current as of 5/7

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