As of today, April 18th, the Chicago Cubs are below the .500 mark with a 6-7 record. All of Cubs Nation is asking what is wrong with their team. The answer is fairly simple: the bullpen hasn’t been getting the job done with a 4.10 ERA through 13 games.
In the first few weeks, three relievers in particular have struggled. Right-hander Pedro Strop has a 7.29 ERA in seven appearances in 2017. Justin Grimm also has had his difficulties so far this year, posting a 9.53 ERA in six outings. Mike Montgomery, the man who earned the save in game seven of the World Series, has been a little inconsistent to begin the year, registering a 3.38 ERA in five appearances.
The struggle of these three crucial members of last year’s Cubs team is yet another illustration of why it is so hard to repeat in baseball. Bullpen arms are very rarely good from year to year, because MLB teams play so many games, 19 each to be exact, against the four other teams in their own division, that the bullpen can get figured out by the opposition in short order. This makes turnover necessary to be successful and, therefore, for the most part, the Cubs newcomers have been doing the job.
Closer Wade Davis is 1-0 with 2 saves and Koji Uehara is 0-1, with a 3.18 ERA. With the exception of Uehara’s Sunday outing, they have both been solid to begin their Cubs careers. Teams cannot be successful with only two truly reliable options in the bullpen. So if come June, Davis and Uehara are the only trustworthy members of the bullpen, the front office will have to go out and make a move to help improve the middle relief core. The NL Central appears to be a very competitive division, so the Cubs cannot afford to fall too far behind if the relievers continue to struggle.
The Cubs offense appears to be playoff worthy, but if things don’t change, the bullpen could derail the Cubs efforts of trying to repeat in 2017.