Questions and concerns regarding the Chicago Cubs bullpen
It has been a rollercoaster ride watching the Chicago Cubs relievers work so far this season. We are about a month in and there are still concerns and questions being asked. Roles are still being figured out by Cubs manager David Ross. Some results have been very good, while others have not.
Entering Saturday's game, the Cubs sport a bullpen ERA of 4.17, which is 12th highest in baseball, along with a 3.75 FIP (19th highest), 1.26 WHIP (14th), 11.02 K/9 (2nd highest) and 4.17 BB/9 (4th highest) in 90.2 innings pitched. These results can be broken down and raise specific questions and concerns.
Concern #1: Walks Kill
One of the issues we have seen from this bullpen is walks. It has directly impacted the results of games.
Entering Saturday, six Cubs relievers have pitched at least 10 innings so far this year. This includes Michael Fulmer, Brad Boxberger, Keegan Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr, Michael Rucker, and Adbert Alzolay. Between those seven guys, they have issued 34 walks in 65 appearances. The average BB/9 between these six pitchers is roughly 4.3. It is worth noting that Alzolay and Rucker have not been bitten by the walk nearly as much as the other four in that group.
These are the things that are killer late in games. While the Cubs have been good at getting the strikeouts, having the second-highest K/9 in the Majors, all it takes is one ball in play to impact an entire game if there are guys on base that had been given a free pass. Opponents will beat you at times, but giving them opportunities has been frustrating.
Hopefully the command for some of these guys will improve because those walks will bite back even harder if they keep being issued the way they are in big spots.