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The Cubs' Bullpen is Going to Hold Them Back From Being True World Series Contenders

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 19: Craig Kimbrel #24 of the Chicago Cubs
pitches against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field on July 19, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Padres 6-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It may sound crazy, but doesn't 2016 feel like 108 years ago in the North Side of Chicago?

Maybe 108 years is a little dramatic, but the vibes around 2016 World Series-winning Cubs are vastly different than the 2019 installment of the team.

While the position player core remains strong with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez, the Cubs' bullpen is holding the team back from being true threats to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League.

Although the bullpen gave up only one run in five combined innings on Saturday and Sunday, the unit has cost the team wins all season...and hasn't made it easy even in winning efforts. Take Sunday night for example.

Sure, this isn't the worst thing in the world, but when Joe Maddon doesn't let Kimbrel finish the inning to instead bring in Pedro Strop, who put two baserunners on with two outs, prompting the team to start warming up Kyle Ryan, it's just a terrible look.

On Friday, Ryan and Brandon Kintzler blew a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Pirates, which included Kintzler handing out three walks in 1/3 of an inning. This came after Kyle Hendricks tossed seven innings of one-run ball.

Friday's meltdown came one night after Derek Holland gave up a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper. While six runs were charged Ryan, Rowan Wick and Pedro Strop in the final 1.1 innings of the game, Holland facing one of baseball's best hitters in a late, close and important game is indicative of how bad the Cubs' bullpen is...regardless of how many injuries there are.

The Cubs hoped that Craig Kimbrel would provide stability to the bullpen when they signed him in June, but the right-hander has a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings this year.

Chicago does not have an easy path to the playoff like the Dodgers or the Braves do at the moment. The Cubs are in a tight division battle and wild card race. They need to beat wild card contenders like the Phillies and destroy awful teams like the Pirates if they want to play in October.

For now, the Cubs' powerful lineup gives them a chance to make a deep run, but their bullpen might be the reason they're watching the playoffs from their couches.