Reds 7, Cubs 4: Bullpen And Other Follies

Jamie Sabau

It's pretty clear to me: Dale Sveum doesn't know how to handle a bullpen. That's not the reason the Cubs lost Friday night, but it didn't help, either.

Oh, Dale, Dale, Dale.

Tuesday in Pittsburgh, when the situation screamed out for a "long reliever" who would throw two (or maybe more) innings, you used up three pitchers in one inning, blowing the game.

Friday in Cincinnati, you used Hector Rondon for a second inning of relief, turning a one-run game into a 7-4 Cubs loss to the Reds, the team's fifth straight defeat.

That, of course, wasn't the only reason the Cubs lost the game, and it wasn't likely they were going to score off Aroldis Chapman (maybe the Cubs should have sent him some Cuban pastries), but I've heard many people recently say and write that this is the reason they don't like having position players as managers, that position players simply don't understand the use of bullpens the way a former pitcher or catcher would. Those people have a point.

The last time the Cubs had a manager (on a non-interim, non-College of Coaches basis) who was a former catcher was Bob Scheffing, who managed the team from 1957-59. Come to think of it, Scheffing managed a pretty mediocre team to its best two records in the ten-year span from 1953-62 and then went on to be manager and general manager of the Tigers.

Anyway, I'm digressing. Scott Feldman wasn't as sharp as he had been in his previous five starts, but it really all came down to one bad pitch he made to Ryan Hanigan, who smacked a three-run homer with two out and two strikes on him in the fourth inning. Feldman hung a breaking ball and Hanigan hit it a really, really long way. If Feldman gets Hanigan out, maybe he gets through six or seven innings and the Cubs win the game.

Feldman also hit a home run. This really is getting almost silly; the last time a Cubs team had three different pitchers hit a home run in a season was 2006, when Carlos Zambrano, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol (yes, he really did, in this game) all homered. But more than that, these three pitcher homers -- from Feldman, Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija -- have happened in the last eight games. That feat, from Cubs pitchers, hasn't happened since 1925... and the 15 RBI Cubs pitchers have this month are the most by Cubs pitchers in a month since August 1937 (H/T to Ed Hartig for that last one).

Cubs pitchers are hitting .174/.191/.337 (16-for-92) with six doubles, three home runs and 15 RBI.

Suffice to say that I don't think this is going to last. Major-league pitchers overall this year are hitting .126/.156/.169. Take Cubs pitchers' numbers out of those totals and other MLB pitchers are hitting .122/.136/.157. These numbers have remained remarkably consistent over the years (in fact, they're a little worse now): 20 years ago MLB pitchers hit .151/.182/.185. 40 years ago, the first year of the DH, they hit .149/.190/.189. I'm still on the DH bandwagon.

A couple of other things of note from Friday night: Anthony Rizzo is still in an awful slump, now 0-for-his-last-22 with nine strikeouts. I'd say give him a day off, but who's going to play first base? The Cubs don't really have a backup first baseman.

Starlin Castro went 1-for-4, but has gotten into a bad habit of swinging at horrid pitches in the dirt, Shawon Dunston-style. He's got to stop this. Castro, who wants to play in all 162 games, could also use a day off.

And the ball-and-strike calls of plate umpire Tim McClelland -- normally one of the better umps in that category -- left something to be desired. Marvin Hudson at first base missed a couple of calls, too.

I wrote a while back that I didn't think this Cubs team would go on an extended losing streak like last year's squad did at this time of year (12 straight). Looks like I might have been wrong about that. The Cubs will try it again in a late-afternoon affair at Cincinnati Saturday afternoon; Travis Wood faces Homer Bailey.

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