By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) On one hand, the Cubs are a first-place team. At 15-12, they’re 1.5 games ahead of the Brewers and Cardinals in a so-far competitive NL Central, despite looking like something less than a champion.
On the other hand, the Cubs keep having to rally to overcome shaky starting pitching. Two notes stand out after right-hander Jake Arrieta rebounded from a two-run first inning to post a quality start in a 5-4 win against the Phillies on Tuesday night. The first that their team ERA in the first inning is 11.00, as they’ve allowed 35 runs in that frame alone to this point. The second is that a Cubs starter has lasted more than six innings only twice in 27 games.
This is through one-sixth of the 2017 season, already, and it’s taxing a bullpen in ways that could matter in October. It has to stop if the Cubs have designs on any further material achievement.
The last thing management wants to do is go chasing help in the trade market due to need, because they would likely pay a premium to a partner sensing desperation. Better to tinker around the edges for luxury items instead of filling major holes, but the expensive move for Aroldis Chapman last year showed that a franchise in a window of contention won’t over-value prospects in pursuit of big goals.
With innings for high-leverage relievers already mounting, bet on the Cubs to not wait much longer to fix what could develop into a serious problem.