Chicago Cubs: Adbert Alzolay has a new home in the bullpen
This past week of baseball has given the Chicago Cubs and fans a lot more optimism heading into 2022. Watching this group rattle off seven wins a row for the team’s longest win streak of the season was a lot of fun and we can see a few pieces that will help for the next competitive team. One of those pieces is Adbert Alzolay who, after being moved to the bullpen to limit his innings down the stretch, has thrived as a reliever.
Alzolay got off to a decent start this season, posting a 4.66 ERA through 15 starts before the All-Star break. Not bad for his first full season as a starter and gave the Cubs consistency in the middle of the rotation.
With a 5-13 record, it’s worth noting the righty has received some of the worst run support in baseball. Of all pitchers who have made at least 20 starts, he has the fourth-worst run support. This has contributed to the lopsided record and is why looking at his record doesn’t tell the full story.
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The question heading into the season for Alzolay was how his innings would be limited as he got deeper into the season. As a first-year starter, it’s not realistic to stretch him out the full season right away so cutting back on his usage was inevitable.
He started to really regress once the second half of the season started, posting a 5.14 through five starts in July and an 8.31 ERA through three August outings.
Alzolay was flexed to the bullpen after a 1 1/3 inning outing against the Marlins were he gave up six earned runs. Since operating out of the pen, he’s tossed four scoreless against the Twins and 1 2/3 shutout innings against the Pirates.
Granted it’s only been two outings, but he’s shown dominance out of the bullpen and his ability to stretch his performance into multiple innings would be a huge asset for this group moving forward. With one of the best sliders in baseball, if the Cubs can fill out the starting rotation, maximizing Alzolay in the bullpen would provide an insane amount of value.
Sure, the long-term plan is to develop him as a starter, but watching Alzolay perform out the bullpen shows he might be better suited as a reliever. With Justin Steele showing he has what it takes to start, the Cubs could use himself, Kyle Hendricks and Alec Mills as three key pieces. If Jed Hoyer can take advantage of the sizable cap space to add two legitimate starters, Alzolay out of the ‘pen in 2022 would make so much sense and be a much more reliable route.
Making this move would give the team a ton of flexibility and make the bullpen that much more dominant. With a healthy Rowan Wick along with the newly acquired Codi Heuer, Alzolay could make the back end of the bullpen a three-headed monster, replacing the Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera trio at a much cheaper price.
I would love to see the team take this route with Alzolay. I believe he can be a great starting pitcher for this team but I don’t think it’s his time yet. He has all the potential, heart and motivation and I think another year to perfect his craft would go a long way to him reaching his ceiling.