Here's why Cubs fans should stop freaking out about the bullpen

Here's why Cubs fans should stop freaking out about the bullpen

There seems to be an epidimic going around Major League Baseball in the first two weeks of the 2017 season and the Cubs are right in the middle of it.

Bullpens are struggling at an alarming rate, as MLB Network Radio pointed out Monday morning:

MLB teams are converting just over 60 percent of save opportunities and bullpen ERAs for the entire league sit at 4.10.

So it's not just the Cubs, who struggled holding leads over the weekend as the bullpen gave up 11 runs in 5.1 innings Saturday and Sunday.

The Cubs have converted just two of their six save opportunities, but there are four other teams struggling just as badly — Rangers, Mariners, Blue Jays and Marlins.

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So what does this all mean?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It's two weeks into the season. No great claims can be made with 150 games left until the playoffs start.

The Cubs bullpen is packed with veteran depth and talent and history strongly indicates they should be able to right the ship.

Pedro Strop has allowed four runs and eight baserunners in four innings so far this season, but he has a 3.30 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his career, including a 2.68 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 232 games in a Cubs uniform prior to this season.

Justin Grimm has a 9.53 ERA in 5.2 innings in 2017 but he came into the year with a 3.29 ERA in 213 games with the Cubs.

Koji Uehara allowed three runs (two earned) without recording an out Sunday but prior to that, he hadn't allowed a run since last July, which was the longest streak in the big leagues among relief pitchers.

Brian Duensing struggled Saturday after being activated off the disabled list but he's only thrown two innings so far.

Beyond that, Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Jr. have yet to give up a run in a combined 10 innings and have allowed just four hits. Hector Rondon (1.69 ERA) and Mike Montgomery (3.00 ERA) have also been effective in small samples.

Point is, it's too early to freak out about anything with the Cubs, even if they are only .500 (6-6) entering play Monday.

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form


Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants