Saturday, April 18, 2009

Our Maligned Bullpen

I was listening to a bit of Sports Central on WGN Radio last evening and I was surprised at how negative the calls were about the Cubs. People hating on Zambrano, Ramirez, Soriano, Lee, Theriot, the bullpen... the Cubs won yesterday, right? If I had not attended the game and simply turned on a radio to find out how the game had gone, I would have had to assume that the Cubs lost yesterday.

The bullpen seems to have the thickest cloud of impending doom hanging over it and I was curious how our group fairs against the rest of the league.

Most of the numbers so far aren't that bad. They certainly aren't great, but they are in the top ten for ERA, Batting Average Against, OPS against, and Strikeouts per nine innings.

The concerning number is the Strikeout to Walk ratio. That is the one stat where they are awful, and that is going to have to change going forward or some of the other peripheral numbers are going to start heading south as well.

Granted, the season is only ten games old and these stats are capable of changing wildly with every game played, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how much worse things could be in the bullpen

The other aspect I looked at was how much work we are asking an average/above average bullpen to get done. The Cubs bullpen has pitched 33 innings which puts them right in the middle of the pack, tied for 16th most with the Mets.

So, our starters haven't abused the bullpen, but our starters are supposed to be the strength of this team. We are asking a group of guys who are mostly failed starters, failed closers, or kids with no experience to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the 6th and 7th innings where the starters should still be pitching.

That is simply asking for trouble and we pay our starting rotation too much to constantly leave games in the hands of someone like Angel Guzman, Neal Cotts, or Aaron Heilman.


Anonymous said...

If you look at the K/BB ratio, the fact that the bullpen has a lot of Ks, the number of BB has to be HUGE to mess that up. And just from watching, I've noticed that the walks are a problem. Once(If) that gets betteer, most of the perceived problem will be gone.

And, is 2 weeks long enough. For those of you who weren't around. Ryne Sandberg started his career 0 for 31. I'm not sure, but I think he had a decent career ;-)


SixRowBrewCo said...

No, two weeks is nowhere near long enough to evaluate a bullpen definitively. My point is that the Cubs' bullpen has hardly been terrible (compared to the rest of the league so far).

As for number of walks allowed, as of yesterday's games, the Cubs have walked 54 batters which is tied for 4th worst in the league. Also, they have managed to do that in only 11 games, making their 4.9 walks per game the worst in the league.

So, there is definite reason to worry. All of the other teams in the bottom ten in walks allowed have higher ERAs than the Cubs except Oakland, suggesting that the Cubs have gotten a bit lucky with the number of free passes they have issued.

So, it could be worse. It could be much, much worse.

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