Bullpen ERA and notes

I heard – although I didn’t check – that after Saturday’s game the Cubs had the worst bullpen ERA in the majors. Since then, though, the pen has been pretty good – I don’t believe it had given up a run until Carlos Marmol’s earned run tonight. That’s reduced the bullpen ERA to 5.23, and as of last night, that was good for 23rd overall, so they’ve improved relative to other teams, anyway.

In looking at these bullpen stats, I took away a couple of interesting points, though:

  • The Cubs have only used their bullpen for 93 innings before today (tack on another 1.2 today). That’s good for 7th-fewest overall. Part of that may be that the pen isn’t reliable and Lou tries to avoid using them, but part of it is that the starters have been going deep.
  • The bullpen is also ranked 7th in batting average against. Opponents are only hitting .238 against Cubs relief pitching.
  • Walks are the problem. The Cubs pen has walked more batters than any other bullpen in the majors, which is why they’re giving up so many runs.
  • Spending a lot of money doesn’t guarantee bullpen success. There are some small-market teams doing worse than the Cubs, but the Angels and the Yankees are both there, too.

Anyway, the bullpen situation is still easily fixable. Carlos Marmol, in particular, needs to stop walking so many people. And some of the pitchers in the back end of the pen probably need to clear out. But the Cubs have enough talent in the bullpen and in the high minors that the pen shouldn’t lose a lot of games for them, even if it may never be a strength.


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