Cubs uncertainty around team’s success until bullpen answers call

Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Cubs offense has gotten off to a hot start in 2020, but the bullpen still needs to answer the call, and there will be uncertainty around this season until they do

The Chicago Cubs offense has been on fire to start the 2020 season. Averaging just under six runs through the first four games, David Ross couldn’t ask for a better start for the bats. The Cubs have won three of four to open the season, and we can see this team will be right in the thick of things in the division.

However, as good as the offense has looked, the bullpen has some serious questions. When this offense cools down, if the bullpen can’t lock things down, there will be some serious concerns about how successful this team can actually be.

The Cubs escaped Monday night in Cincinnati, clinging on to an 8-7 victory. The offense did its thing, racing out to a 7-0 lead in support of Jon Lester in his first start of the season. However, after Lester’s five-inning, no-hit gem, the bullpen came in and made things interesting.

Seven different relievers entered the game, going four innings while giving up seven runs, six hits and EIGHT walks. An unacceptable performance, and we were a ball away from walking in the tying run. Luckily, Joey Votto lined out to center to end the game.

This feels like more of the same for this bullpen. In a 3-1 game on Saturday against Milwaukee, the bullpen took over and gave up five runs on five hits in five innings. The unreliability of this bullpen seems to carry over from 2019, and it’s a huge red flag for a team that has deep postseason aspirations.

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Craig Kimbrel has to be the biggest question mark, and the success of this team and bullpen depend on how dominant he can be. I wouldn’t say he got a pass in 2019, but his struggles could be attributed to no spring training as he was added mid-season.

After signing the three year-$43 million deal, he hasn’t given Cub fans a reason not to sweat when he enters the game and last night was no exception. Entering the game with an 8-5 lead, Kimbrel recorded one out, walked four batters, hit one and gave up two runs. If this team wants to find sustainable success, it starts with Kimbrel finding control.

Kimbrel isn’t the only question mark out of the pen. In fact, Rowan Wick may be the only reliever without uncertainty tied to his name. With eight walks issues and two hit batters last night, control is the biggest area Tommy Hottovy needs to emphasize with his guys.

Kyle Hendricks can’t throw complete-game shutouts and the offense can’t plate eight every night. At some point, the weakness of this team will be exposed and if the bullpen can’t prove themselves, this team won’t make it very far. Keep in mind late last season the Cubs lost FIVE straight games by ONE run. So to say the bullpen won’t have a major impact on the results as we move through this 60-game season would be a lie.

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While last night was a cause for concern, it’s not time to hit the panic button. The Cubs are off to an excellent start at 3-1, and they are in an excellent position to keep things going.