Gregg to close, Marmol to spoil
Note: looks like Colin didn't come through with his Player Previews again. In his defense, he's been under the weather. I'll be working on giving you guys double shots today and tomorrow.
Lou Piniella announced yesterday that Kevin Gregg was his choice to close in 2009. I know I'm in either the quiet majority or vocal minority, but I oppose this move. My reasons are these:
First. The one knock that people had against Piniella before he came to the Cubs that I think has proven true is his mishandling of the bullpen. It's hard to paint him as being an absolute failure in this regard, though. After all, he at least doesn't take the Dusty approach of having 7 relievers, remembering to use 6 of them, and calling out the odd man (perpetually nicknamed "Rusty") to get his ass kicked about once every 10 days. The problem is that Lou will ride the hot hand until the guy gets ground into the dirt.
Consider Marmol's workload the last two seasons. In '07, he appeared 59 times, and he threw in more than 1 inning in 27 of those games. He also threw in consecutive games 11 times, and he threw in 3 consecutive games only once. But that was fine - Lou never used him in multiple inning appearances in back-to-back games, and he actually gave him rest. But that restraint evaporated last season. In 82 games pitched in 2008 - already half the team's games, for lawd's sake - Marmol threw multiple innings 17 times.
The big difference between '07 and '08, regardless of the fewer multiple inning games, was that Marmol was used in spurts. Lou pitched him in consecutive games 14 times, and he pitched him in 3 consecutive games 6 times. That's a lot of wear on a pitcher, and things really took their toll last year on Marmol between May 31 and July 3. In those 13 innings pitched, Marmol surrendered 9 hits, 10 BB, and 14 earned runs, and he remained erratic until after the All Star Break (on July 12 he gave up 5 runs, for which he was on the hook for all or most of them until a later decision changed the record to 1 ER). When he returned on July 20th, he was used less often thricesecutively (I know, I just made that word up) and he was given more rest after excessive use.
The worry I have is that Piniella will be tempted to overuse him again, especially if Heilman looks more like Howry than he does like, well, Marmol.
Besides, as I pointed out previously, baseball is a game with egos. Maybe the Cubs figure that Marmol will get his chance to close someday soon so he'll be satisfied and will get paid what he thinks he's worth, but if Carlos doesn't get the chance to work the job that pays the big bucks, he might not want to stay with the Cubs.
All that said, Gregg should do a fine job closing. If not, we know there's somebody else who can swoop in and do it too. And maybe that's bound to happen regardless. Lou has limited patience, Gregg will be on a short leash, and heck, this might even just be one of those challenges he likes to subtly issue from time to time.