The Cubs entered Thursday with a percentage points lead in the NL Central over the Brewers. They then proceeded to lose four straight games to the last-place Reds. We know what happens then. Look, it was a garbage series, but it's still only four games out of 162. People lose their minds about games on a daily basis and four straight against a last-place team is tantamount to an all-out panic for many.
The Cubs had a lead in three of those games, so there will be discussion about the bullpen. As noted by David Samson on CBS Sports HQ, the in the series. It's also posted a 4.26 ERA in June and has allowed an awful lot of inherited runners to score, making the starters look worse.
Digging deeper, though, there isn't much reason to panic over the bullpen on the broader scale.
First off, and this should be obvious, closer Brandon Morrow (1.59 ERA) and setup man Carl Edwards Jr. (2.88) are on the disabled list. Lefty swingman Mike Montgomery has been forced into the rotation due to the injury to Yu Darvish. Take any bullpen and remove the two best relievers along with its long man and that's going to hurt.
Further, last Monday there was a rainout, forcing the Cubs to use two starters on Tuesday. That meant neither was available to start Saturday and the Cubs had to go with a bullpen game. The bullpen was already overworked and without two studs and now it was leaned on for an entire game. Not surprisingly, it got ugly.
On Sunday, Pedro Strop had a brutal outing and blew the game. That isn't a symptom of a larger problem, at least not just yet. He was bad, but it was one game. Before that game, he was outstanding, sitting with a 1.76 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and holding opponents to a .185/.252/.250 line.
My hunch is a month from now, the Cubs' bullpen remains one of the best in baseball. Even with the bad stretch, they are fifth in the majors with a 3.12 bullpen ERA.
Once Morrow and Edwards return -- which won't likely be much longer -- and Darvish, the bullpen will return to the dominance we saw during the first two months of the season.
Yes, it was a disgraceful series to lose four straight to the Reds, but bad stretches happen. The 2016 Cubs lost nine of 10 at one point. They turned out OK, I believe. This isn't to say the 2018 Cubs are going to win the World Series, but it is to say that people shouldn't be drawing over-arching conclusions after a terrible series. A bad series -- which was preceded by a series win over the Dodgers, by the way -- is nothing more than just a bad series.