Cubs: Ryan Tepera has quietly had himself quite a month of May

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

A perfect combination of seasoned veterans and young arms have assembled on the North Side, giving Cubs manager David Ross one of the best bullpens in all of Major League Baseball.

Entering play Sunday, Chicago relievers boast the second-best ERA in the National League (3.10) while simultaneously throwing the fourth-most innings of any NL club. Young arms like Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson and Dillon Maples have garnered most of the attention, but veteran Ryan Tepera has quietly turned in a month of May that can only be called dominant.

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After making 11 appearances and struggling to a 5.40 ERA in April, Tepera has bounced back in a big way through the first three weeks of May, taking the ball 10 times and allowing just one run (0.87 ERA), striking out more than 10 batters per nine and not walking a single hitter to this point.

Of course, Tepera had his moment in the spotlight last fall when a voting member of the BBWAA accidentally gave the right-hander a down-ballot MVP vote. He pitched well for the Cubs in his first year with the team, making 21 appearances and working to a 3.34 FIP. That was enough for the team to bring him back this winter in free agency as the front office looked to, once again, piece together a relief corps.

At least so far, it looks like Jed Hoyer hit the mark with his hodgepodge group of arms. Craig Kimbrel is back to being, well, Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, Andrew Chafin has become the go-to lefty late in ballgames and the supporting cast has settled into their roles perfectly.

Cubs are getting quality from Ryan Tepera and the rest of the bullpen

For Tepera, a huge piece of the puzzle has been his ability to limit walks. That was something that he struggled with in 2020, averaging north of five walks per nine. This season, though, he’s slashed that mark down to a 2.2 BB/9 – a much more palatable number and one that would be the best he’s posted since his rookie year back in 2015 if it carries through the rest of the year.

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He’s relied on a high whiff and chase rate to find success, which has allowed him to overcome a pretty lackluster fastball velocity and a lot of hard contact. As we know, with how this team is constructed, Chicago is relying on everyone playing their respective part and picking one another up on a daily basis. So far, Tepera and his fellow relievers are doing just that and it’s paying dividends in a big way.