The Rundown: Cubs Bullpen Tough to Stomach, Umpires Taking Center Stage This Season, Crowdfunding Minor Leaguers
Let me start by saying I am more than just an average fan and, not coincidentally, a big chunk of my incidentals budget goes toward being a Cubs fan. The Cubs bullpen is bringing new meaning to the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.
Question to Theo about the bullpen in regards to the "avg Cubs fan" thinking its a concern: “The average fan of every major league team is worried about the bullpen.”
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) April 3, 2019
To counter what Theo Epstein said, I am no longer worried about the relief corps. I’ve given up. Frankly speaking, the bullpen is a shitshow. The Cubs have played five games this season, and unless drastic changes are made, every time I see Joe Maddon pull a starter I will expect one reliever after another to give each game away to the opposition. Last night’s poor excuse of a ballgame is exhibit A, but the bullpen has yet to garner my confidence in any of the preceding games, either.
Even ESPN commentator Tim Kurkjian was in a state of confounded disbelief during last night’s game, as was David Ross.
This is nothing new. Average fans and professional baseball analysts alike have been down on the Cubs bullpen since at least the end of last season. A great shot by the ESPN camera crew showed Brad Brach in the dugout after he was pulled from the game yesterday evening, and seemed to indicate he was just as puzzled as I was with his inability to put the ball over the plate. So maybe Epstein should change his statement to, “The average Cubs starting pitcher is worried about the Cubs bullpen and its inability to protect leads.” Oh, and thank you for Brach, by the way.
“You don’t usually notice a pen when they’re getting outs on a consistent basis,” Epstein said to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers before yesterday’s game. “You notice them when they’re giving it up. And giving it up is a natural part of the game. It’s just disproportionately noticeable when it happens early.”
Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A lot of “rational” Cubs fans will say that it’s way too early to panic about the bullpen’s current state of affairs, or the team’s woeful start. But there is not a reliever on this team that looks confident on the mound. I don’t think any of them have a single wipeout pitch that instills fear into opposing hitters. My fear is that we will hear the world culpable a lot more than capable this season unless changes are made soon.
Cubs News & Notes
- When do the Cubs play the Marlins and the White Sox? Asking for a friend.
- Craig Kimbrel is not the magic pill that will solve all of this team’s bullpen issues. I suppose the Cubs would not even consider the former Red Sox closer unless Morrow was declared out for the season.
- Epstein stressed that the Cubs will win their share of games when they don’t play as well as the final score indicates, and that they’re unlikely to play worse than they have so far.
- David Bote and and the Cubs agreed to a $15 million extension that will keep the super utility player with the team through the 2024 season.
- The Cubs have invested over $100 million in a starting rotation that is being looked at to carry the team this year.
- Are the Cubs getting some ugly losses out of the way early or is there more to it?
- If the Cubs continue to have issues on this road trip and return home 2-7 or 1-8 with no answers out of the bullpen, things might be a bit muted and edgy for the home opener on Monday.
- What can we make of the Cubs weird and wacky start and very negative first impression?
- Here are five stats that sum up the team’s slow start. Standing out: 45 walks in 41 1/3 innings. That’s 9.79 bases on balls per game.
- You can kiss the fast start goodbye, and the Cubs still need to find that sense of urgency they have talked about repeatedly since last October.
- Despite the awful start, the Cubs still project to an 88-74 season and are currently ranked sixth according to the latest power rankings from Scout.com. Their current odds of winning the NL are 6/1 and in simulations they go to the World Series 10% of the time.
- The NBC Sports power rankings tell a different story. They have the Cubs at No. 17.
- Jon Lester thinks things will turn around and that the Cubs are “kinda kicking themselves in the butt right now.”
- The Cubs will try to stop their current four-game losing streak and avoid the sweep in today’s tilt against the Braves. Game time is 6:20pm CT and Yu Darvish will face off against Max Fried.
- Willson Contreras launched his first home run of the season in yesterday’s loss and he was pretty darned excited.
- With the slow start to the season, is Maddon on the hot seat right now? Discuss in the comments section if you’d like.
Is Joe Maddon on the hot seat? @LGRed and @TonyLuftman discuss. ?#ChangeUp pic.twitter.com/YnakLpTRrf
— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) April 4, 2019
How About That!
The umpires have surely grabbed there share of attention this season, as Cubs pitchers who have seen the strike zone shrink to the tiniest of planes can attest. But last night, MLB umpire Ron Kulpa kicked it up a notch. In a bizarre exchange with Astros catcher Max Stassi, he shoved the backstop and allegedly screamed “I can do anything I want!”
Mets’ starter Jacob deGrom is very good at baseball.
Brewers’ starter Freddy Peralta isn’t too bad, either.
Christian Yelich has joined Mike Trout and Mookie Betts as the top players in baseball. It’s a small sample size, but the reigning NL MVP has a .375/.531/1.000 batting line and an NL-best 0.8 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs, as of Wednesday.
Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Jones had a fan removed from San Diego’s Petco Park for profane and abusive language during yesterday’s game.
Today is Opening Day for most minor league baseball teams.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Jacob deGrom – On the mound, the Mets’ ace overwhelmed the Marlins by tossing seven scoreless innings while striking out a career-high 14 batters. DeGrom allowed just three hits and one walk and extended his streak of quality starts to 26, tying Bob Gibson for the major league record. He also homered in New York’s 6-4 victory.
- Freddy Peralta – The Brewers starter had a career night in Milwaukee’s 1-0 win over the Reds. He struck out 11 Cincinnati hitters while allowing just two hits. The 6-1 Brewers are off today and host the Cubs for three games this weekend.
- Dodgers Batters – For the first time in franchise history, Los Angeles has hit at least one home run in the first seven games of the season. In L.A.’s 5-3 win over the Giants last night, Kiké Hernández led off the bottom of the first inning with a homer off lefty Derek Holland.
This is a great story about one man trying to make a huge difference.
Minor leaguers at the lowest levels make as little as $1,100 per month despite spending 50-to-70 hours per week at the ballpark. Once players are assigned to minor league camps in spring training, they stop getting paid until their regular season starts. A lawsuit alleging MLB violated minimum wage and overtime requirements was pre-empted last year when congress passed the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which stripped minor leaguers of the protection of federal minimum wage laws.
Former Mets prospect Jeremy Wolf is helping minor league players use online crowdfunding platforms to ask fans to provide money for meals, rent, cleats and other essentials. Wolf founded More Than Baseball to help address those needs.
The group uses online donations — it’s raised over $2,000 so far this spring — to help fund meals, rent and other necessities. Fans can make a one-time donation or enter into an agreement to provide a monthly contribution.
They Said It
- “What we’re doing a little bit right now is just trying to press and do too much. Everyone is trying to come in, whether it be a hitting situation or pitching situation, and be the guy. That’s hard to do over 162 games. We put such an emphasis [on] getting off to a good start, I think it’s hanging over our heads a little bit.” – Jon Lester
- “It’s still baseball. Nothing we were talking about this offseason will become this narrative that I hope will really die very soon when we get into the flow of the season as it relates to outcome on a particular night. We’ve had one of the best bullpens in baseball the last four years and there’s probably been a grand total of three days that people haven’t been worried about the bullpen. It’s 162 games and things are going to happen. That’s just the way it works.” – Theo Epstein
Thursday Walk Up Song
Crazy by Seal. I suppose we should just let the season play itself out, but honestly, who thought things would be so out of whack to start the season?