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The Pen of 1,000 Walks

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Author: Joey Christopoulous

Warning: The following sports statistics may be disturbing to Chicago Cubs audiences.

THE BULLPEN ERA’s are as follows:

1. Casey Sadler-6.75, 2. Duane Underwood Jr.-6.75, 3. Rex Brothers-11.57, 4. Ryan Tepera-13.50, 5. James Norwood-16.20, 6. Dillon Maples-18.00, 7. Brad Wieck-18.00, 8. Dan Winkler-27.00, 9.Craig Kimbrel- FIFTY-FOUR-POINT-ZERO.

No North Siders, that isn’t the points-per-game averages for the Washington ‘What’s-Left’ Wizards. It's your 2020 Chicago Cubs bullpen. 

Look, I can already hear the age-old mantra wafting to me soaked in a thick, breathy Old-Style breeze, “It’s earrrrly”. “It’s only six games”. Trust me, those phrases are on repeat like ‘Go Cubs Go!” in this fans mind. 

But this is historical, like Aliens at the White House. Like Jared Leto playing the Joker (Wait, that one actually happened? JEEZUS). When David Ross extends his hand and opens up the barn, this truncated season has basically become an episode of Cubbie Idol: Bullpen Edition. And the results have been painful, unrelenting, utter Chumbawumba.

Through the first six games, this collection of OBP Mother Teresa’s is posting a 9.64 BB/9 with a walk-per-batter “efficiency” of 21%. This is a special moment that we should never want to forget. Think about it. We’re talking about nine men that, when it comes to ERA, are proving that the possibilities in this life are endless. 'Nine Knights Of The 3-0 Count' defiantly proclaiming dreams CAN come true. Also, nightmares. As my Dad would say, “DasssNineF***ingGuysJoJo!”, in the richest of Chicago-accented exasperations. Translation? Nine too many.

To be truthful, when I stare mindlessly at these numbers, I feel less anger and more stunned astonishment. Last year's bullpen was a soul-sucking destroyer of leads and happiness, but this season's batch rifles through your wallet, then takes a dump in it and puts it back into your pocket. Want to have more fun Cubs fans? This ‘Nasty Nine’ is allowing a crisp 3.38 HR/9. I can acknowledge my memory is a bit Quaran-fuzzy but can someone DM me the ‘Safe Word’ for this torture chamber? We’re witnessing something perhaps never attempted in the annals of baseball. 

So, can they keep it up? Only time and 35 more broken remote controls will tell. Cubs fans have seen over the years bad bullpens come, go and build back up like peanut shavings under their seats. Rick Aguilera. LaTroy Hawkins. Mel Rojas. It’s a ‘Who’s Who’ of abject disappointment. But…could this be a new breed? 

Look, am I the type of die-hard fan who gets upset, maybe even enraged to the point where it feels personal when they lose? Present. But am I the fan who can also look at the bigger picture and believe passionately in the ebbs and flows of baseball? Absolutely. So, consider this is an intervention you 'Naughty-Naughty Nine'.

On the bright side, Rowan Wick and Jared Jeffries have already qualified for the next round of Cubbie Idol. Kyle Ryan, however, could soon be singing for his life and with that beard, he better not go Lumineers on us. There is still PLENTY of time to level off the stats on the back of the baseball card (closes eyes and prays five Holy Caray’s for Craig Kimbrel). But one more 3 Doors Down moment and it’s time to start sprucing up the LinkedIn profile gentlemen.  

It’s a shame because there is plenty to get excited about with this Cubs team through the first week. Admirable starting pitching, an offense producing 6.3 runs per game despite two of its anchors, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, still finding their rhythm at the plate. The real surprise has been the bottom half of a lineup that has not just produced but has carried the team in a handful of games already. The Cubs have scored runs early, smacked dingers to extend leads late and flashed some inspiring hitting with two outs. David Ross’ lineup combinations have been a success with the full-time DH and the 'Bench Mob', thus far, is thriving. There is a lot to like about this Cubs team right now. 

But there is no Panic Room for this pen. They will accomplish the impossible of awfulness if you let them. So, call your Carraway’s, call your Marquez’s and tell these early 20-something’s we’re ready to see what you got. Cubs fans could use a little “lightning in a bottle” from a reliever, their version of what Bobby Jenks did for the White Sox in 2005. There is plenty of time to build a bullpen comprised of a half dozen relievers that David Ross can trust. 

Yet time, patience, sanity and the meter on a 60-game season is already running. Cherish this moment now, look upon its ugliness lovingly. Then hope you never, ever, see it again. Or maybe Rui Hachimura on the Wizards will be available soon. I’m sure he can google what a strike looks like. At this point, Cubs fans may just be up for anything.

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