Home Sports The Importance and Value of Optionable Relievers, Alzolay’s Non-Curveball, Morel Still Kind, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Importance and Value of Optionable Relievers, Alzolay’s Non-Curveball, Morel Still Kind, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Importance and Value of Optionable Relievers, Alzolay’s Non-Curveball, Morel Still Kind, and Other Cubs Bullets

oh my Vince Gilligan and Rhea Seahorn working together on another project… I am not going to be able to wait the two years or however dang long it takes to actually produce the thing.

  • Up and down is the best way to describe rookie reliever Erich Uelmen’s season so far with the Cubs AND his possible role with the Cubs in 2023, neither of which I mean as an insult:
  • Uelmen, 26, one of the many breakout relievers for the Cubs’ farm system the last few years, has posted a 4.76 ERA (about 10% below average) in his first 22.2 big league innings. The vast majority of that boost to the ERA, however, comes from just two outings – three-run affairs in each of his two appearances in Toronto last month. They still count, of course. But it’s worth pointing out that Uelmen has been scoreless in 13 of his 20 appearances, and has allowed more than one run just three times. Up and down sounds about right.
  • I suspect that part of the reason Uelmen has gotten so much big league action in the second half, in addition to having what LOOKS like a solid big league sinker and slider combination, is because he was on the fence for the Cubs as to being a guy they want to keep on the 40-man roster all offseason in anticipation of his role in 2023. If he does survive the offseason, Uelmen figures to be in the relief mix, either right away, or as needed throughout the season. The Cubs want as much time as possible with him for development and evaluation.
  • Optionable relievers – guys who are big-league-caliber, but who still have minor league options remaining (I call them up-down guys) – are such a critical part of having the best possible bullpen. Sometimes, you will need to move guys around to optimize usage, rest, performance, etc. And if you don’t want to constantly risk losing players from the organization, you need to be able to option some guys up and down (until and unless they establish themselves) – it’s just the reality of the sport. I think this is all the more critical in a world where teams are limited to 13 pitchers on the roster, total. Injuries to your “core” relievers are going to happen, and you need solid (even if slightly below league average, though hopefully better!) pitchers to be able to come up temporarily to fill in, and then be optioned back down when necessary. Good teams need more useful relievers than they can actually roster.
  • So that is to say, guys like Uelmen, Michael Rucker, Manny Rodriguez, Jeremiah Estrada, Mark Leiter Jr. … they can all be a very valuable component of a successful bullpen, even if they aren’t “up” with the big league team at all times. I’m just happy that the Cubs are going to go into the offseason with so many guys, internally, to evaluate for these 40-man spots. Better to have too many than too few, even if the circumstances are going to lead to some surprising guys getting waived, and some prospects being left unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft.
  • I could tell there were some classification issues on Adbert Alzolay’s pitches this year, but I thought maybe it was some of his curveballs being called sliders, since it LOOKED like he was using his curveball a lot more this year, albeit a new tighter, higher -velo one. Well, there’s a point at which a tighter, higher-velo curveball is actually just a slider:
  • So it’s a little bit of a tomato-tomahto situation, because Alzolay is using a new pitch, it’s just a different slider, not a different curveball (even though it has a lot of curveball-like properties). In either case, it’s a really nice-looking pitch so far, and if he can command both types – a slider that moves kind of like a knuckle curve, and a slider that has more of a sweeper shape – that’s going to give him all the more chance of succeeding against lefties, where he hadn’t been finding much success last year with his sinker-slider combo (and I can only guess the feeling for the changeup just never came). His primary way of attacking lefties last year was the cutter, at least late in the year, but we haven’t seen it much so far in his two 2022 outings.
  • Christopher Morel, still out there being awesome with fans:
  • Oof, this is awkward: it turns out the Giants’ director of pitching, Brian Bannister, has not been able to work in person with Giants pitchers all season due to the league’s vaccine requirements for staff (he chose not to be vaccinated). I’m sure he’s still been able to help remotely, but geez – can you imagine not having the director of pitching for your entire organization be able to physically observe and work with, you know, the actual pitchers?! What a self-inflicted competitive disadvantage for an organization that otherwise was all about getting every coaching edge they could get. It’s TBD whether the vaccine requirement will stay in place for next season (I’ve gotta believe the Giants are betting it won’t, and they otherwise value Bannister so much that they felt they had to keep him). Glad the Cubs didn’t have to deal with anything quite like this.
  • This guy … and he’s teammates with that other guy(!):



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