If you haven’t been following the Cubs too closely this season, no one blames you. However, you have been missing out on a few positive trends. The Cubs bullpen is one aspect of this oddly cobbled group that has come together pretty nicely (minus the Veras boil that was just lanced); as a unit, the relievers rank ninth in the majors in ERA with 3.13. Even for fans who watch regularly, they’ve been easy to miss. They rank 20th in the majors in innings pitched at 178.1 (thanks to the starting rotation), and part of the Cubs organizational plan has been to keep a short bench as far as position players go in order to have thirteen in the bullpen (instead of the typical twelve). In a recent Sun-Times article, Gordon Wittenmeyer quoted Jed Hoyer on this plan: “Given the experience some of these guys have in the bullpen, we’re trying to actively make sure we don’t overuse these guys . . . which results in a 13-man bullpen, which results in a shorter bench.” The Cubs are trying to protect their young arms at the expense of limiting Renteria’s pinch-hitting and substitution options in the later innings, and I like it. There was no way the Cubs could come close to having the young talent all arrive at once. They don’t want players like Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm just sitting around, but they also want to avoid dropping a Russellian workload on them before the hitting arrives.
Speaking of Neil Ramirez—the guy is a great talent. He was drafted by the Rangers as the 44th pick in the 2007 draft. He has a starter’s repertoire of pitches (he was a starting pitcher in the Rangers minor-league organization): fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. In fact, his array of pitches reminds me of Jake Arrieta. If you need an indication of how lively his fastball can be, check out this video of his first MLB strikeout:
I can’t tell if Braun’s lemur eyes are a reaction to the steal or the strikeout pitch, but I like to think it’s the pitch.
His other pitches seem to be developing pretty nicely after having some control issues in the past. He didn’t even throw a slider until he was a part of the Rangers system. Neil has great numbers so far, and that success is due to his ability to keep hitters off-balance . He has a 0.68 ERA, 21 strikeouts, and only 4 walks. Now, here’s the thing. This all only in 13.1 innings pitched, but that’s what I’m talking about. Ramirez just turned 25 and won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017, so it is smart of the Cubs to protect an asset like him.
He cried himself to sleep when Ted Lilly was traded to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt and is currently in the market for a new favorite player. When the Cubs win the World Series, Andy is going to celebrate by juggling chainsaws.