Questionable managerial decisions lead to latest Cubs meltdown

It isn't just the front office that's making us scratch our heads any more.
Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds
Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

It's no secret the Chicago Cubs have one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball. After a National League-leading 17th blown save on the season in San Francisco, it wasn't so much the fact that another save wasn't converted, but more so, how questions are beginning to rise on how Cubs manager Craig Counsell is handling the bullpen to this point in the season.

Heading into the 9th inning of a two-run game, after the customary two base runners for the opposing team reached safely, Counsell decided to relieve Colton Brewer in favor of Drew Smyly, which felt like gas on the fire waiting to happen. Indeed, Smyly came in only to up a single, walk, sac fly, intentional walk, and then nailed the casket shut by walking in the winning run.

The biggest issue here wasn't that Smyly was brought in to face what would be all right-handed batters. Smyly's batting average allowed against righties on the road this year was a minuscule .138 entering play, and even if his FIP indicated regression could be coming, there was data behind the decision.

Given that the next three hitters Smyly was set to face (Curt Casali, before getting subbed before Patrick Bailey, Nick Ahmed, and Austin Slater) don't have strong data against Smyly's arsenal, primarily a knuckle curve and sinker to righties, it was a spot for Counsell to lean on the analytics and prove why he was signed for a record-breaking managerial contract this past winter.

The problem was that it was obvious Smyly had no command but was not taken out once he faced the three-batter minimum. The analytical data must go out the window when the pitcher is not executing their strengths, even if you don't have any faith in the rest of your bullpen to get the job done.

Jed Hoyer's construction of this bullpen has been underwhelming, leaving Counsell with little to work with as it is. The last thing the Cubs can afford right now is for their skipper to become the catalyst for why the team starts losing more games.

Chicago Cubs: How can the team fix the ongoing bullpen nightmare?

The season is about to be half over, the trade deadline is coming up, and the Cubs have been sinking for the better part of two months. There's only so much bullpen-shuffling that can be done. There's time to bounce back, but only a little before the team must go on a run to justify becoming buyers again.

If the team isn't in a position to buy within a couple of weeks, you can shut the door on the season because other teams in the running will actually be open to making the necessary moves to become contenders. As this uphill battle gets even steeper, this year as a whole has become one of the biggest disappointments of Hoyer's tenure in the Cubs' front office.