The Hot Corner column: Even if you are a casual fan of baseball there is a chance you have heard the Tampa Bay Rays began starting bullpen pitchers in lieu of a starting pitcher.
The Rays relief pitchers tossed their way to the bullpen of the weak, according to MLB.com. This accolade comes despite the fact the Rays bullpen has been average all season with a 4.02 ERA, according to Covers.com. But should the Cubs, who rank third in bullpen ERA in the league, do the same?
On paper the Cubs starting rotation is tops in the league, but anyone who has watched the games, knows the starting pitching tells a different story.
For pitchers such as Jon Lester or Kyle Hendrick starting a reliever is almost laughable. Hendricks, who has a 3.16 ERA, has worked 62.2 innings pitched in his 10 starts. And Lester, who has a 2.37 ERA, has 57 innings under his belt in the same number of starts, according to baseballreference.com
Both pitchers have shown they are capable of setting the tone in a game and staying consistent throughout. However, Jose Quitana, Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish have all struggled to set the tone in their outings.
Chatwood has allowed nine runs within the first two innings in his 10 starts. Darvish has allowed seven, but has become more infamous for his fifth inning meltdowns, which starting a reliever could help as it allows hitters less at bats against pitchers as the game gets closer to completion.
But who would the Cubs use to begin a ballgame?
If the Cubs were to start a reliever, pitchers such as Justin Wilson, CJ Edwards, Brian Duensing, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop, all have sub 3.15 ERAs. Chicago also has a plethora of potential set up man, which would prevent messing up the bullpens flow. Whether they wanted to play the hot hand, or work the matchups the Cubs have options.
For Cubs fans who have to sit through a long first inning due to poor outings it can be a miserable experience. And for a team as streaky as the Cubs have been, it can be a real blow to moral.
For a Cubs lineup that has perennial all-stars and MVPs batting one through three in the lineup, a good first inning could mean sluggers such as Kris Bryant and Anthony RIzzo get their hacks in before falling behind.
But when would the situation arise for the relievers to start?
With Jose Quintana pitching well, it may not fit for everyone. But with Darvish back on the DL and multiple long relief options on the roster, Rob Zastryzny, Mike Montgomery and Randy Rosario (Rob Z is in the minors but I am merely pointing out they have options if they choose) Joe Maddon may have some upcoming starts to fill. Chatwood could also benefit from a shutdown first inning as it would allow him to start his night against the weaker parts of the lineup and find his command.
The Cubs have also gone to six man rotations in the past during the dog days of summer, and while effective, this could be suitable replacement.
The success of this new game plan is still months away from truly being understood. But baseball is an evolving game, and who would of though teams would shift as much as they do now?
With their early bullpen success and inconsistent starting pitching, this could help put the Cubs back on track.
For additional coverage listen to the Sports Bark Podcast on May 31.