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.

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.