Breaking News Bar
updated: 4/17/2018 6:35 AM

Some hot questions as Chicago Cubs try to move past cold start

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • It has been a cold start for the Cubs and their first homestand of the baseball season.

    It has been a cold start for the Cubs and their first homestand of the baseball season.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Cubs have gone two days without playing a baseball game, if you consider Saturday's spectacle in the sea spray a real baseball game.

Manager Joe Maddon accepted Saturday's 14-10 comeback victory, but he made it clear he would rather have not played, given the brutal cold and wind, as well as the icy precipitation.

Maddon's strong opinions may have played a part in the postponements of Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves and Monday's scheduled opener with the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Monday night's game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, July 21. For Tuesday, Tyler Chatwood remains the starting pitcher for the Cubs. He was the scheduled starter both Sunday and Monday.

We have only a 14-game sample size to examine with the Cubs, but let's try to answer a few burning questions.

In 5 games, Cubs relief pitcher Eddie Butler is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 0.87.
In 5 games, Cubs relief pitcher Eddie Butler is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 0.87. - Associated Press
Q: Has there been an individual pleasant surprise?

Reliever Eddie Butler has helped the Cubs big time in a couple of games, and it may be that the 27-year-old right-hander is carving out a new niche in his career.

A former supplemental first-round (46th overall) draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, Butler was on the edge of making the Cubs roster in spring training. He was out of minor-league options, so the Cubs kept him as a long reliever.

Butler worked 7 innings of relief in the second game of the season, a 17-inning marathon at Miami. Butler took the loss in the 2-1 game, but he saved the bullpen that night. In Saturday's frozen victory over the Braves, he worked 3⅔ innings of relief of ineffective starter Jose Quintana.

In 5 games, Butler is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 0.87. It could be that he gets a spot start or more during the meat of the season. Butler started 11 times for the Cubs last year, going 4-3 with a 3.95 ERA.

Relief pitcher Brian Duensing leads the Cubs with 8 appearances and is 1-0 with an 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90.
Relief pitcher Brian Duensing leads the Cubs with 8 appearances and is 1-0 with an 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90. - Associated Press
Q: How about a team surprise?

One never knows about bullpens, but the Cubs pen is off to a good start with a record of 5-2, an ERA of 2.09 and a tidy WHIP of 1.10. The starters, on the other hand, are 2-5 with a 5.40 ERA and a WHIP of 1.65.

Sidearm specialist Steve Cishek has worked in 7 games, going 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a WHIP of 0.91. The Cubs were fortunate to re-up with lefty Brian Duensing, who overcame a poor first month last year to have a solid season.

Duensing has been the workhorse of staff in the first month. He leads the team with 8 appearances and is 1-0 with an 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90.

New closer Brandon Morrow had trouble getting work early, but he has a pair of saves, an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.75.

So far, so good. But our annual admonishment is that bullpens are the most fickle part of any team and that the bullpen a teams starts the season with is never the one it finishes with.

Ian Happ has been the Cubs' leadoff hitter nine times this season.
Ian Happ has been the Cubs' leadoff hitter nine times this season. - Associated Press
Q: Are there causes for concern?

Cubs leadoff hitters have a line of .234/.319/.344, as Maddon has trotted out Ian Happ nine times, Albert Almora Jr. four times and Ben Zobrist once at the top of the lineup.

It's likely to be that way the rest of the year. The Cubs were spoiled in 2015 and 2016 with Dexter Fowler as the main leadoff man, but lacking that kind of player now, Maddon will have to play the matchups.

Right fielder Jason Heyward is off to start of .200/.302/.289 on 9-for-45 hitting and 1 homer. Heyward was only marginally better last year than he was in 2016. Heyward has worked extra hard in two straight offseasons with two different hitting coaches. If Heyward does not approach the 6-win (as in wins above replacement) player team president Theo Epstein said he wanted last fall, do the Cubs reduce his playing time and give Almora more starts in right?

Don't expect Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon to go with a "set" lineup throughout the season.
Don't expect Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon to go with a "set" lineup throughout the season. - Associated Press
Q: Will Maddon ever go with a "set lineup?"

No. This is a frequent plea of many fans, but truth be told, the days of the "set lineup" are long gone in major-league baseball. All teams nowadays invest heavily in analytics, and they play lineups based on the day's matchups.

Maddon considers the matchups against the opposing team's pitcher and how his defenders will help the Cubs' pitcher.

The players know how Maddon operates. They're used to it. It's time for everybody else to get used to it, too.

• Twitter: @BruceMiles2112

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.