As April draws to a close, it’s refreshing to see the Cubs bullpen sit top 5 in the NL with an ERA of just 3.20. We’ve all seen the offensive numbers, with Chicago ranking near the top of the league in key categories such as batting average and on-base percentage, but it is the bullpen that has quietly shown a great deal of success through the first 20 games of the season.
Though Chicago entered Saturday at 8-12 in the midst of a particularly rough stretch of schedule, it’s important to realize they’re not that far from being a quality team. The best teams in the league are backed by the likes of a strong offense, a reliable bullpen and consistent starting pitching. For the Cubs, the missing piece is definitely starting pitching. Cubs starters have amassed a team ERA of of 5.54, good for 12th out of 15 teams in the Senior Circuit.
The bullpen, however, has been a totally different story. Keegan Thompson for one has been the feel-good story of the season so far out as a shutdown multi-inning reliever. He sits with an ERA of 0.54 through 16 2/3 innings pitched to go along with 17 punchouts. Through seven appearances, Rowan Wick sits with a 1.34 ERA and 9 strikeouts across 6 2/3 frames. Before his first really poor outing of 2022, Mychal Givens was rolling with a 1.29 ERA through seven innings of work.
Most importantly, the Cubs have quietly found themselves a solid closer thus far with David Robertson. The former Yankees closer is enjoying what looks like a resurgent year on the mound, sitting with a dazzling 0.00 ERA through his first 8 2/3 innings of work. He has 11 Ks and, more importantly, has already racked up four saves on the seasons. Should he stay healthy, Chicago definitely has the back end of the bullpen in place moving forward.
A huge question moving forward is what to do with Thompson. With a red-hot start to the year, he clearly deserves a shot to perhaps swap places with Justin Steele to see what he can do to patch up an ailing rotation. The Cubs currently lack guys that can get deep into ballgames. Although spring training was cut short, on top of a lockout that presumably messed up guys’ routines, the fact remains: this team isn’t going to go very far getting 4-5 innings on average from their starters.
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In fact, the 2022 Cubs bullpen is reminiscent of the 2021 bullpen. A fantastic hot start that was ruined by burnout due to lack of depth in the rotation. Though the offense last season was average, at best, in the first half of the year, it was the starting pitching that ultimately did the team in and pulled the rug out from underneath the season. If the Cubs will look to compete, they need starting pitching desperately or this bullpen performance is all for naught.