(CBS) The Cubs have walked 51 batters in 78 2/3 innings in nine postseason games, including 26 in 34 2/3 innings in a National League Championship Series that they trail 3-1 against the Dodgers ahead of Game 5 at Wrigley Field on Thursday night.
The onus on throwing strikes ultimately falls on the man on the mound, but Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein also accepted blame for the team’s wildness, which has most notably reared its ugliness in a bullpen that’s seen trade deadline acquisition Justin Wilson left off the NLCS roster altogether, go-to relievers Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery struggle in big moments and manager Joe Maddon show little faith in several others because of past performance.
“We need to take ownership of that,” Epstein said on the Bernstein and Goff Show specifically of Wilson’s struggles before turning his attention to the issue at large. “Something hasn’t gone right. He’s more than doubled his walk rate with us. And frankly, that’s been a theme with our pen. I mean, the headline with our pen is ‘Good regular season, real tough postseason.’ But in both the regular season and the postseason, we just walked far too many guys. I think we’ve walked 26 guys (this series). Our bullpen walked over 10 percent of the batters it faced this year, which was 30th in baseball. We were 26th the year before that. It’s been kind of across the board. Of our 10 relievers that have thrown the most innings this year (for us), eight of them have walked way more guys than they have traditionally and the other two are right at their averages.
“It’s sort of systemic across the board. So we have to find a way to address that going forward, and we will. Some of it is obviously personnel based, and it will be important for us to bring in some reliable strike throwers going forward out of the pen. And then some of it is sort of we have to ask ourselves hard questions, if maybe we’re not being quite aggressive enough in certain counts, in 2-1 counts. Are we still trying to pitch to chase and getting us in trouble? I don’t know. I know our pitching infrastructure is awesome, and I love them and we do so many things right. But I think the fact that it’s been two years in a row where we haven’t really thrown strikes and that most of our relievers have taken a step back with their strike throwing, that falls on me. We got to find a way to fix it through personnel and also looking at our approach a little bit.”