The Chicago Cubs are headed to the playoffs for the second straight year and unlike last year the Cubs have a stronger lineup, better starting pitching and an improved bullpen.
The Cubs' bullpen is not extremely deep but the back end of it is a strong point, starting with Kerry Wood, who has revived his injury-plagued career by converting to the closer role.
Wood may have turned his career around this season as he has pitched the most innings since 2005.
He has posted a record of 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 34 saves. In his last five games Wood has allowed only two hits and has not blown a save since Sept. 7.
Setup man Carlos Marmol is the other anchor of Chicago's bullpen. The All-Star has turned around his midseason swoon and ended the season strong.
Marmol ended his season with a 2-4 record, 2.68 ERA, seven saves, and 114 strikeouts. In Marmol's last nine-and-two-thirds innings he has allowed only two earned runs so he is looking poised for the postseason.
The real surprise of the bullpen this season has been former Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija who, after being recalled from Triple A Iowa, has been lights out. In Samardzija's first major league season he went 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA.
With these three ready to come in to the back end of a game, the Cubs can turn every game into a seven-inning game, hoping to get these guys the ball with a lead.
Jason Marquis will be moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen for the playoff roster because he has been fairly effective and will be there for long relief situations. Marquis posted an 11-9 record and a 4.53 ERA as a starter during the 2008 season.
With all the positives come some negatives for the Chicago Cubs bullpen, such as Bob Howry, Neal Cotts, Chad Gaudin, and whoever else will fill out the Chicago bullpen.
The list of other pitchers in the Chicago Cubs' bullpen has struggled in recent weeks and if they can not be depended on then Lou Piniella might have a difficult time if his starters struggle. Howry and Gaudin have been both pitched poorly in September but will probably need to be on the Cubs' playoff roster.
We will not know what Lou Piniella will do with his bullpen until late Tuesday or Wednesday, but he has some difficult decisions to make heading into the playoffs.
This first round match-up between the Cubs and the Dodgers should be quite interesting. Buckle up for an amazing September.