Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 3.31.19

CUBS CENTRAL
(1-1)
Third; 0.5
Streak: L

THREE RUNS
The Cubs blew two three-run leads on Saturday against the Rangers and lost, 8-6.
Rubber match on Sunday.

PICKING DAISIES 
57 pitches by Yu Darvish on Saturday before the Rangers put a ball in play:

  • Strikeout
  • Strikeout
  • Walk
  • Walk
  • Walk
  • Strikeout
  • Walk
  • Walk
  • Walk
  • Strikeout
    Rougned Odor RBI single to right field.

BALL FOUR
Darvish (7), Quintana (3), and Edwards (2) combined Saturday to issue 12 walks in 6.2 innings of work. Must. Throw. Strikes.

SOS
An all-around terrible season debut from CJ Edwards. No command of his pitches, no outs recorded, and he served up the game-winning home run. Edwards appeared completely out of sorts with the new leg hitch—utterly lost with his delivery.

SCHWARB THINGS
Aside from his solo bomb in the fifth, Kyle Schwarber’s third inning ground out advanced Javy to third, which led to a run when Contreras followed with an RBI double; in the ninth, Schwarber’s successful bunt beat the shift and brought the tying run to the plate. It’s not just the big things, but the little things count, too.

KANGAROO COURT
I’ve said it countless times: If given the power, I’d fine any base runner who slides headfirst trying to beat a bang-bang play at first. And the first court fine of 2019 belongs to one Albert Almora. Of course he was called out. For the love of baseball, run through the bag.

DH
If the National League adopts the DH, I’m okay with it. If the NL sticks with tradition, I’m okay with that, too. I don’t care if pitchers bat or that the current Cubs are built for an American League brand of ball. For me, it’s a non issue.

TRANSACTIONS
Left-hander Brian Duensing cleared waivers and has been sent outright to Triple-A Iowa. I expect Duensing gets an opportunity to rejoin the Cubs later this season, that is assuming he doesn’t fall to pieces in Iowa.

The Reds have designated lefty reliever Brandon Finnegan. Might he be on the Cubs radar? If the Cubs were willing to take a flyer last season on the 31-year-old oft-injured Jamie Garcia, why not take a flyer this season on the soon to be 26-year-old oft-injured former 2014 first-round draft pick?

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 3.30.19

CUBS CENTRAL
(1-0)
Tied for first
Streak: W

WALK THIS WAY
The Cubs drew eight walks on Thursday: Rizzo (3), Contreras (2), Zobrist (2), and Bryant (1). The Cubs had the fifth most walks in baseball last season (576).

CUBS WALK LEADERS 2018
78 – Schwarber
70 – Rizzo
70 – Happ
55 – Zobrist
53 – Contreras

YUBOUND
In his first season with Chicago, Yu Darvish struggled to pitch beyond the fifth inning and managed just a single win in eight tries before hitting the shelf with a triceps strain and stress reaction on his right elbow. It’s hard to imagine the Cubs meet expectations this year without an effective Darvish in the rotation. He gets the start Saturday against his former mates in Texas.

CHOO-CHOO
Shin-Soo Choo expressed his displeasure with Ranger skipper Chris Woodward’s decision to sit him in favor of Hunter Pence in the season opener. Pence went 1-for-4. Choo is expected to be in the Rangers starting lineup Saturday.

NEXT STOP 52
Last season Choo reached base safely in 52 consecutive games, matching a personal best, and the longest such streak in the majors since 2007.

Bad Brew
A lights-out bullpen was Milwaukee’s greatest strength in 2018. Not so fast this season. Jeremy Jeffress is currently on the injured list with shoulder weakness; Jimmy Nelson’s return from shoulder surgery is still an unknown; Josh Hader doesn’t pitch on consecutive days; and now comes the news that closer Corey Knebel is out for the year to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Brewers have enough pop to outslug opponents. But for how long? A bullpen that was expected to be the Brewers’ greatest asset has suddenly become a concerning liability.

CHANNEL 4 NEWS
The Padres in-game entertainment will now include the Anchorman races. Costumed characters the likes of Ron Burgundy, Champ Kind, Brian Fantana and Brick Tamland will compete in similar fashion to the famous Sausage race in Milwaukee and the Presidents race in DC. Stay classy, San Diego.

Bullpen Session

Bullpen Session 3.28.19

(1-0)
An impressive opening act: 12 runs on 13 hits. Home runs for Javy (2) and KB (1). Lester goes six strong. That will play.

BIG JON
Jon Lester’s outing Thursday marked his third consecutive opening day start and his fourth overall (’15, ’17, ’18, ’19) since joining the Cubs in 2015. Lester’s string of lid-lifters was interrupted briefly by Jake Arrieta in 2016, but marks the most opening day starts by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano opened the campaign in six consecutive seasons (2005-2010).

ROAD WARRIOR
Lester was a stalwart on the road last year: (11-2, 2.87 ERA). He didn’t miss a beat Thursday at Texas earning his first road win this season.

INTERLEAGUE
Only Boston (46-14) has a better interleague record than the Cubs (40-20) since 2016. Chicago went (13-7) versus the AL last year. 2019: (1-0).

GOODBYE GLOBE
The Ballpark in Arlington, a.k.a. Globe Life Park, opened in 1994. Thursday marked the yard’s 26th and final Opening Day as the Rangers move to a new retractable roof stadium next year. As exciting as new ballparks are, I’m bummed Globe Life will be put to pasture. With its irregular dimensions and white frieze boxes in center field, I’ve always considered it to be one of the league’s gem cathedrals. Part of any beautiful ballpark is its ability to stand apart on television—and The Ballpark in Arlington is instantly recognizable on tv. But what doesn’t come through the flat screen are the Globe’s many obstructed view seats (hello, Wrigley) and the oppressive Texas summer heat. Farewell, old friend.

FORMER CUBS
Zac Rosscup (2013-17) earned his first win of the season last Thursday with a clean inning of relief in Seattle’s 5-4 victory against Oakland in Tokyo. The Mariners swept the two-game series that opened the major league season.

Trevor Cahill (2015-16) was the Angels’ Opening Day starter Thursday in Oakland. He allowed four runs on six hits over six innings and was tagged with the loss as the A’s won 4-0.

Tommy La Stella (2015-18) went 1-for-3 in his Angels debut.

Justin Grimm (2013-17) has signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers.

Rene Rivera (2017) has signed a minor league deal with the Mets. The portly catcher also has one of my all-time favorite nicknames in baseball: Moncho. Which loosely translates to “a fat guy who’s fun to be around.” Perfect fit.

Jason Hammel (2014-16) announced his retirement after a 13-year career. Hammel signed with the Cubs as a free agent in February of 2014. Four months later he was packaged with Jeff Samardzija and traded to Oakland on July 5 as part of the swap that brought Addison Russell to Chicago. Hammel re-signed with the Cubs that offseason and would go on to make 61 starts (105 ERA+) over the next two seasons in Chicago. Despite making 30 starts during the 2016 campaign, Hammel was left off the postseason roster, but rightfully earned a World Series ring nonetheless. Bon voyage, potato chip man.

Cubs Blog

EARLY EXPECTATIONS

If spring training is the soft opening to the baseball season, Opening Day is the hard launch. That’s why it peeves me to hear poor performance in April excused with cries of “it’s early.”

Sunrise is early.
Christmas music in November is early.
Spring training is early.

Regular season baseball is never early. Not in March. Not in April. Not ever. A win today counts the same as a win tomorrow. Which is to say, wins carry no shelf life; they’re evergreen—not milk.

I need only to remind you the Cubs lost the division flag by a single victory last season. One more win, be it any month last season, and there’s no division tiebreaker loss, no wild card loss, no one-and-done in the postseason. We’ll never know what might have been last year, but it serves to remind us that early excuses likely brings an early fate.

Cubs Blog

Spring Things

The two things I concern myself with during Cubs spring training:

  • 1) Major injuries to key players.
  • 2) The Opening Day roster.

Aside from a few minor bumps, bruises, and blisters, there are, thankfully, no serious injuries to key players. The final two roster spots appear to be filled by outfielder Mark Zagunis, filling the void created by Ian Happ’s assignment to Triple-A, and veteran lefty Randy Rosario to round out the bullpen. As for the the rest of spring training, make of it what you will.

When it comes to spring statistics and spring standings, I have more faith in the five-day weather forecast. To use either spring marker as a credible indicator of regular season performance is a fool’s errand. The 2016 Cubs finished the Cactus League schedule (11-19) with a minus run differential. Joe Mather and Brett Jackson, among countless others over the years, were March All-Stars. So until Tyler Chatwood shows he can command the strike zone in a meaningful game I literally don’t care how he, or any Cub, has fared statistically this spring. When the bell rings Thursday in Texas let the real counting begin.

Cubs Blog

First Pitch

Welcome to Bullpen Brian. I’m excited to reboot the site after a long hibernation. To learn more about this blog click the hamburger button in the top left corner to find the About page. As the venerable Pat Hughes would say, “Fasten those seat belts, Cubs fans.” The 2019 roller coaster departs Thursday. And away we go…