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April 2017

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Organizational Recap – Wind Blows Out, Cubs Bullpen Blows Up

Written by , Posted in General

BOX SCORE / HIGHLIGHTS / CONDENSED GAME

Stop if you’ve heard this one before. The Cubs bullpen has question marks, and Saturday’s 8-7 loss to the Pirates shows why.

I get it. It was a gusty day on the North side against a very good hitting Bucs team, and the wind could have netted Tuffy Rhodes a three-home-run day. Carl Edwards Jr. was not available and on the bereavement list, so that’s a factor (prayers to him, by the way). That said, the structure of the bullpen is taking a really weird shape at this point in the season, and there has been no consistent lead-in to closer Wade Davis, who, after a rocky in Spring Training, looks like his old self thus far (three more Ks in 1 IP Saturday).

Manager Joe Maddon is trying to build confidence back up in both Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop after clearly steering away from them in the playoffs last year. Strop has been a roller coaster ride thus far, and his three-run bomb to Andrew McCutcheon further illustrates his struggles. Rondon, cleared from tweaking his knee Wednesday, has been much better than last year, and we’ll leave it at that since its early in the season.

My two big questions from this game are:

  1. Is 42-year-old Koji Uehara the Cubs’ setup guy? Or is it Rondon? Both have appeared in the eighth inning in crunch time three times this year (and Uehara has yet to be scored on) but are either of these two go-to setup men at this stage in their careers? Edwards has only been the eighth-inning guy once, which begs the question …
  2. If Maddon has enough confidence in him to try to close out the World Series, why is Edwards not the Cubs’ lockdown eighth inning guy? He, too, has yet to be scored on this year and allegedly could be the Cubs closer of the future if they do not want to pay a likely large Davis deal this offseason.

What do you think the Cubs should do to shore up some of these bullpen questions early in the season? Or is it too early to declare them problems?

Questionable Bullpen Move?

Leaving Brian Duensing in to start the seventh and him surrendering jacks to Starling Marte and Josh Harrison was really the swing of momentum to the Pirates. Duensing is all of two days off the DL with a stiff lower back. He was pitching on back-to-back days, and he bailed Arrieta out of a mini sixth-inning jam with a one-pitch ground ball out to end the frame. That should’ve been it.

Why not just send Strop out to start the seventh fresh? Dirty innings, man. They get you.

Arrieta’s Velocity, Cubs Offense Show Some Pop

Worthless Jake Arrieta velocity alert! He sat at 92 most of the game with his fastball and had a nasty slider working, despite two homers (one that would have been a routine fly ball any other day off the bat of Francisco Cervelli). Arrieta should be 3-0, and his arm is lively this year … almost too lively. He was effectively wild against the Bucs and that offseason contract is still on track to be $200 million.

It was great to see Kris Bryant’s first two home runs of the year, including one that traveled 451 feet and ricocheted off the video board in left field, while Addison Russell continued his strong start with a 2-for-5 day, a triple, double and three RBI. I thought he was winning it with a game-winner in the bottom of the ninth, but he K’d.

On Deck

The Cubs (6-5) try to avoid being swept at the hands of the Pirates (5-6) by sending southpaw Jon Lester to the mound against 25-year-old Jameson Taillon, who, along with Tyler Glasnow and Gerrit Cole, makes up the young nucleus the Pirates have in starting pitching. Today’s game will be on WGN-TV and Radio 670 The Score at 1:20 CDT.

Class AAA – Round Rock Express 7, Iowa Cubs 6

SP – Williams Perez L (0-1), 5 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

2B – Chesny Young 3-4, 2 R

CF – John Andreoli 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R

DH – Ian Happ 2-4, R

3B – Jeimer Candelario 1-4, 2B, RBI

1B – Victor Caratini 1-5, 2 RBI

Recap: Panic has set in … Happ hasn’t homered since Thursday and Candelario hasn’t recorded a 5-RBI game since Wednesday! The bats still came out for the Cubs, but a 4-run fourth charged to Perez wasted a 4-2 Iowa lead. It was nice to see Chesny Young notch a 3-hit game and David Rollins run his scoreless-relief-innings streak to five with two scoreless frames. If he keeps it up, Rollins may find a spot in the big league pen.

Class AA – Tennessee Smokies 3, Mississippi Braves 2 (Game 1: Final/9)

SP – Preston Morrison ND, 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

CF – Charcer Burks 2-4

1B – Jeffrey Baez 1-3, HR, RBI, R 

Recap: The Smokies walked off in Game 1 with a pinch-hit RBI single by Erick Castillo in the bottom of the ninth.

Class AA – Mississippi Braves 3, Tennessee Smokies 1 (Game 2: Final/7)

SP – Duane Underwood Jr. L (0-1), 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)

3B – Jason Vosler 1-3, HR, 1 RBI, 1 R

CF – Charcer Burks 1-3

LF – Roberto Caro 1-2

Recap: Underwood Jr. settled down after trailing 3-0 after 2 innings of play. Fantasy Baseball Prospect Writer Chris Blessing reported Underwood sitting 90 to 92 mph with his two-seam fastball in the first inning. He never had a chance with an offense that totaled just three hits, one a homer from Jason Vosler.

Class A Advanced – Lynchburg Hillcats 5, Myrtle Beach Pelicans 3

SP – Casey Bloomquist L (0-2), 4 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

SS – Bryant Flete 3-4, 2B, 2 R

3B – Jesse Hodges 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI

Class A – West Michigan Whitecaps 6, South Bend Cubs 5

SP – Jose Paulino ND, 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

LF – Kevonte Mitchell 2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R

2B – Zack Short 2-4, 3B, RBI, R

1B – Vimael Machin 2-4, 2B, RBI

C – Albert Mineo 2-4, 3B

  • Bryzzo1744

    I think we should have kept Chapman quite frankly. I don’t see a decline.

    • Doug S.

      I don’t think closer is a problem. It’s the guys in-between starter and closer.

  • Buddy

    I think Edwards is still on the bereavement list. Haven’t heard when he is expected back. Any of you guys heard any updates on that?

  • Buddy

    Two losses in a row? That’s it! Time for massive changes! Bunt more! Bunt less! Steal more! Steal less! Steel Magnolias! Shoot more three’s! Punt on third down! Damn the torpedoes! Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia!

    • Bryzzo1744

      A WR is open 20 yards downfield? Screw it. I’m going to bomb it 50 yards downfield into triple coverage!

    • Sherm

      Great commentary. Makes sense to me. Buddy for bench coach.

      You had me at Steel Magnolias.

  • Bryzzo1744

    Saw this on facebook today about Maddux:
    He faced 20,421 batters during his career and only 310 saw a 3-0 count. 177 of those were intentional walks

    • Sherm

      So? Seymour has worked more 3-2 counts against a pitching machine than anyone on this blog.

      • Seymour Butts

        I’ve had a few 8-2 counts as well.

    • Sherm

      Jim Palmer pitched 19 years and never gave up a grand slam.

      Is today random retired pitcher trivia day?

      • cap’n realist

        ‘Did you know bees and dogs can smell fear?’ Caps is like the kid in Jerry MacGuire, without the cuteness, obviously.

      • Sherm

        Jerry Maguire was released on December 6, 1996. It was a Friday. I know that because I have Google.

      • cap’n realist

        Much quan to you.

      • Sherm
      • Doug S.

        Surprised me. Was half expecting CAPS in there.

      • Seymour Butts

        Cy Young won 511 games in 22 seasons. Not once did he win a Cy Young award.

      • cap’n realist

        Probably had something to do with his 316 losses. Most career losses of any pitcher in history.

  • cap’n realist

    Not sure Duensing is a major leaguer at this point. I actually don’t hate getting him an IP with that lead, but there’s no way you run him out there for the 7th. No excuse for Strop, McCutchen is just the superior player with a properly affixed hat in that matchup. In my experience, in all facets of life, the crooked hat just finds a way to be a loser. That’s what the Cubs have got in Strop.

    • Sherm

      “in all facets of life, the crooked hat just finds a way to be a loser.”

      That’s what I’ve been trying to say for two years…but far less eloquently.

      • Doc Raker

        Rack that!

    • Sherm

      Okay, so maybe this is just the craziest coincidental anagram of ALL-TIME, but Duensing rearranged? Spells UNSIGNED

      Yeah. You read it right. UNSIGNED. Let it sink in. Even the God of names knew.

      • Seymour Butts

        Or he might be more happy with
        Side Gunn.
        CAPS I know Gun only has one “n” so it’s ok to let it go.

        Never will top Aaron Heilman’s anagram.

  • Doc Raker

    Disappointing loss. You want to dump on Maddon and the bullpen fine, but we should of had 10+ runs. Base loaded and we score zero. I was visiting with my family yesterday and my brother says to me, “I can’t stand listening to Len anymore. All he does is talk about a stat or a number, he has no insight into the game. JD is good but it is like he is talking to himself.” I said, “Sign my petition, Fire Len Kasper”

    • Sherm

      It’ll never happen. He has a ring now. He’s an insider. Len, I’m afraid, is in it for the long haul. Look at the bright side, though…

      Oh, wait. There is no bright side. My bad.

    • cap’n realist

      In the 2nd or 3rd innnng Len and JD were comparing Arrieta’s delivery to that of a pro bowler. Dear god. JD really doesn’t bring much to the table, but he’s clearly stuck with a stooge up there. Then the sideline reporter in the dugout chimes in that her dad was a pro bowler. Then they all yukked it up. JD then said something about where his foot lands gives him more spin…no, JD, it’s because he stays closed longer which creates lower and upper half separation and torque. We can’t really expect a former 11 year major league pitcher and current analyst for the defending World Series Champs (see how I snuck that in?) to have any idea about the mechanics of the pitching delivery. Arne Harris’ grave must look like a rotisserie these days.

  • Sherm

    Yesterday’s game was disappointing. Most losses are disappointing, but the ones you should win are always worse. One of my favorite lines was a Tommy Lasorda: “I’d rather lose 10 – 0 than 1 -0. 10 – 0 and I sleep like a baby. 1 – 0 and I’m up all night wondering what I should have done differently.”

    I thought Jake had good stuff. If the starter is still better than the guy replacing him…why replace him? World class athletes – don’t tell me they are “saving” him for the stretch run.

    Somehow, I think it was Montzero’s fault. I know he didn’t play. Doesn’t matter.

    There’s a problem with the lineup – after Rizzo, any decent pitcher has little trouble getting back to the top of the order. Russell is the best hitter of the 4 – 9 crowd, and he’s still super young and not a mature, patient hitter. He’s good, and getting better, but he’s not “protection” for the entire bottom half. Same can be said about Contreras. Does well against mistakes and has had some clutch hits, but young and immature approach still. Baez – don’t get me started, although I like the fluffy bunny tail Easter hairdo. Pitcher batting eighth? Kills any rally – most of the time – that happens in the middle. Jay and Almora are proving to be fairly patient…but don’t get much playing time. Heyward, while seemingly improved (and the BEST “Fuck shouter” in the history of baseball) returned to form yesterday with two hoppers (another Easter Bunny reference? Perhaps!) dragged to the right side. What Len called a “productive out,” I called a shitty at-bat. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to? Not for me. I don’t even eat potatoes. This lineup needs a Schwarber or Bryant hitting FIFTH. I have to point the finger at Theo for not having a leadoff hitter on the squad. It’s his job to fill those spots – that’s what he does, and usually with excellence. I think he missed this one, though. Maybe another year or two of Fowler, maybe not, but you need a leadoff hitter who isn’t built like John Kruk.

    Steve Stone on the commercial for the personal injury attorney puts a dent in my respect for Stone.

    Binny’s. Shut up or put up. How about $500 for a leadoff hit?

    I have no problem with “Championship Swagger” – really, I don’t, but I’d prefer to see them WIN GAMES. You are last year’s champions. Now find your humility (hey guys? Watch Kris Bryant) and go work hard and win games. EVERYONE is gunning for you. EVERYONE. EVERY GAME.

    Now put your hats on straight and go start a winning streak, dammit.

    • cap’n realist

      Somebody that knows photoshop put Steve Stone in some sneakers chasing an ambulance and win this week’s Lizard (TM) already.

      • Sherm

        Or we could just skip right to it, and have him chasing a sandwich…

  • Sherm

    Happy Easter – here’s a preview of San Diego. Or not. With apologies to anyone with eyes…

    http://www.jibjab.com/view/CCkR8qVJSkmcvrAD908t4A

    • Doug S.

      And there he is….

    • Bryzzo1744

      That video is awesome. Side note, Al Berg looks like Urban Meyer.

      • cap’n realist

        I’m man enough to rock the purple. On Easter. This year.

        Sherm the empty nester with time on his hands on Easter.

  • Jim Cogdal

    The bullpen. Again. Just sayin’. What a waste of a Lester masterpiece.

    • Doug S.

      I’m restraining myself, having another beer and watching basketball.