Chicago Cubs bullpen starting to cause concern following loss

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

After the Chicago Cubs rallied late to take the lead, the bullpen failed to hold the lead as they blew their 11th save in 20 chances. They still hold first place, but something is going to have to change.

When you watch the Chicago Cubs offense, it’s hard to think that they’re ever out of a game. When the bullpen is in the game, it’s hard to believe that the opponent is out of it. This is an issue that reared it’s head again on Friday in a 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs had the ideal guy on the mound in the ninth, but it still ended poorly.

I recently wrote about this situation and how it was going to bite the Cubs sooner or later. Well, it was biting them. Now it’s starting to pull the flesh away. The Cubs offense is so good, that’s why they still hold first in a competitive Central. The Cubs, even giving them a few of those blown saves back, could be ahead three to four games–instead, they’re just 1 1/2 up on the Brewers.

The optimist says, ‘We’re still in first.’ The pessimist? ‘Not for long.’ I’m the former, but doubt is starting to creep in. The Cubs showed the ability to battle back after starting the game with a four-run lead thanks to homers from Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Yasiel Puig did his thing to get the Reds back in the game. And Eugenio Suarez is starting to become the Ryan Braun of the Reds. Every time he faces the Cubs, he’s making it hard for Cubs pitching.

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And here’s the rub. When Pedro Strop returns, and eventually Brandon Morrow? The bullpen doesn’t statistically get better. Strop is one of the best relievers in Cubs history. Look it up. But he’s not a closer. And Morrow?

The Cubs think he is. But when you have to be careful pitching back-to-back days? You can’t be a closer. If the Cubs would have brought in a legitimate ninth-inning guy, those arms could slide back an inning or two into roles they are more familiar with, and the weakness becomes a strength.

I won’t go as far as saying the Cubs are going ‘all-in’ on Craig Kimbrel after the draft when he no longer has a pick attached to him. But they’re going to be one of the front-runners for his services by default–because he’s desperately needed. Otherwise, the deadline might be the time you’ll see the Cubs trade for one. Remember, there is only one deadline this year. The waiver deadline is gone. July 31 is your last chance to get help.

I’ve seen many analysts across several networks say that this Cubs team is proving to be close to the 2016 team. We gave up quite a bit for Aroldis Chapman, who did indeed help the Cubs hoist the World Series trophy. Ideally, they would try to sign a free agent or trade a package of low-level prospects to a rebuilding team. But once again, the closer could be the key to the Chicago Cubs success.

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It may have seemed like Theo Epstein sold his soul–and the farm system–to bring in Chapman. I don’t think it’ll take that kind of deal, but something is going to happen in the next few months. I guarantee it.