Goatriders of the Apocalypse

It's time for the weekly FIX THIS EFFIN' BULLPEN post

I am humiliated to admit that I can't bring myself to visit ChicagoNow today because I don't want to read a gloating Kaplan tell us all about how he was right about Kevin Gregg -- especially when he's not.  While it's true that Gregg lost the game -- despite AJ's noting that Gregg has previously pitched multiple innings -- I still think it's probably a mistake in this modern era to use closers in more than 1 inning.  Still, the guy to blame is probably Carlos Marmol, who'd be the last person in the platoon to be assigned grenade-tossing duty. 

Not to mention the healthy dose of blame that belongs to Lou Piniella for failing to get Grabow ready earlier in the game to face the Philly lefties that Marmol couldn't handle.  Maybe the Old Man still hasn't learned that the Grabber is a part of his roster.

Anyway, believe it or not I'm still unconvinced that the Cubs bullpen is actually all that bad.  I just think that, like the Cubs lineup, they have been horribly mismanaged this year.  Much as it took Lou far too long to realize that Soriano wasn't a leadoff hitter and maybe Bradley belonged in the #2 spot of the lineup, his continued insistance on turning to Marmol in big situations -- coupled with his persistence in using relievers for multiple innings -- has been costly and needs to end.

Therefore, I will submit to you the following two bullpen concepts.  One is for when Jim and Lou return to reality and realize that teams only need six relievers, the other will be for the reality of the seven guys the Cubs will continue to carry.  Onward:

Your Six Man Squad
LR - Aaron Heilman -- he belongs nowhere else but in blow-outs, whether it's the Cubs who are leading by 6 or their opponents.  Much as Lewinski was with presidents, Heilman has yet to meet a lead he didn't want to blow.  So, let's put him in a place where his inaffectual ability will do the least harm.

MR - John Grabow and Carlos Marmol -- At the most, Marmol should be a 6th and 7th inning guy right now.  It's true that he has amazing stuff, but the wildness is not worth the risk.  Actually, I've started to feel that Marmol should be on Hendry's trade-list.  Looking back through the history of the league, there aren't many effectively wild pitchers who had long careers and if his mechanics can be fixed, it doesn't appear to be something that Larry Rothschild is capable of.  Grabow, meanwhile, may in fact be a better lefty reliever than Marshall, but at this point Sean has been nearly untouchable in relief. 

SU - Angel Guzman and Sean Marshall -- Guzman has proven to be an extremely valuable relief pitcher this year.  He's one guy I was definitely wrong about, as I called for his release at the start of the season.  He's presently got a 2.57 ERA and has only allowed 11% of his inherited runners to score.  Sounds like a go-to guy to me.  Marshall, meanwhile, has a 1.19 ERA in relief.  Last season Goat Friend and Iowan sports broadcaster Jon Miller noted that he doesn't have the stuff or the pitches to be an effective starter, and that appears to be true, but he won't face many batters twice in relief.  He's had his shot(s) to start. 

CL - Kevin Gregg -- we've already outlined that Gregg has been an "average" closer.  This remains true, despite last night's 2-inning outing and loss.  If used properly, Gregg will do a servicable job.  Still, I wouldn't call the closer's role a strength in the Cubs repertoire and I look forward to the glorious day when they get somebody who's actually great at doing the job.

Your seven man squad
LR - Heilman, Marmol -- You read that right.  If he wasn't needed in a middle relief role, I would absolutely put Carlos Marmol on the same boat as Aaron Heilman.  He is not an asset to the Cubs right now.
MR - Grabow, Esmailin Caridad -- It's possible that Caridad couldn't maintain his strong start with the Cubs, but until he became as much a question mark as Marmol, I would keep him over Carlos in the bullpen.
SU - Guzman, Marshall
CL - Gregg

What I wouldn't do is allow Jeff Samardzija anywhere near a major league uniform.  Maybe he'll someday be a reliable major league pitcher, maybe not, but this isn't his year -- so why the hell is Lou keeping him on the roster just to get smacked around? 

Cubs bullpen

The Cubs gave up two hits after the 7th inning. They gave up one run. If the offense was better, we would not be having discussions about how inept Gregg is.

That would be cool for Carlos

That would be cool for Carlos Marmol if walks and hit batters actually didn't matter, as you're suggesting is the case.

As a separate issue, I don't

As a separate issue, I don't hate the 11-man staff, but until Z and Lilly are both healthy, I'd say we need a 12th dude. I also disagree a bit with your assessment of Marshall and Grabow's abilities. I'd go:

LR - Heilman, Caridad
MR - Marmol, Marshall
SU - Guzman, Grabow
CL - Greggy

It Wasn't the Bullpen

The bullpen gave up 2 runs in 5 innings last night. They did their job.

Gregg has now given up one run in his last 4 innings. He did his job.

The offense scored 3 runs in 12 innings, including 1 in the last 9. They didn't do their job.

Marmol individually was horrible. But the other guys did fine.

"The bullpen did their job,"

"The bullpen did their job," AND "Marmol individually was horrible"? That logic doesn't quite jive with me.

I see what you're saying, but after your starter goes seven and gives up just two runs, the best teams SHOULD have the arms in the 'pen to get six more outs.

Furthermore, as soon as Marmol hit Victorino (it was Victorino, right?), and three lefties were due up, Lou should have been on the phone with Lester Strode getting John Grabow warmed up. How can you let a guy who just walked two and hit one pitch with the bases loaded--especially when he throws righty and the hitter bats lefty?

When your starter is shutting the other team down, three runs should win you the game.

I dunno

I don't know that you should be able to count on a bullpen coming up with a 0.00 ERA every time. And I'm not sure how your expectation of the bullpen can depend on how many runs the starter gave up.

Besides, even if Marmol had been perfect, we still can't say that the Cubs would have won the game. He simply would have preserved a tie. The Cubs had a tie in the tenth and eleventh innings -- "Any ol' kind of a run wins it" -- and the offense couldn't do squat with it.

Look at it from the Phillies' side -- their starter gave up only two runs, too.

You're right that it isn't

You're right that it isn't fair to expect a 0.00 ERA every time out. But it's also not fair to your team when, as manager, you don't utilize your bullpen to the best of its ability (please excuse the awkward sentence structure there).

You're right that we don't know if the Cubs would've won even if Marmol had been perfect. We also don't know how Grabow would have fared against Utley or Howard, rather than Ibanez (heck, maybe if Lou let Marmol face Ibanez he would've struck him out, too).

What we do know, however, is that LOOGY sat while Marmol walked two lefty hitters, AFTER walking and hitting a pair of batters before then--and that just doesn't seem to make sense.

It's a lot easier to score three runs, as opposed to four.


A great question and one I was scratching my head about last night. How do you allow Marmol to continue with the score tied and the bases loaded from his two BB's and HBP? Yet he was allowed to walk in the lead run before his departure. On the offensive side, why would you sac bunt with Theriot after the opposing pitcher was showing no signs of having a clue where the plate was and quickly walked the leadoff man in the inning? The tying run ended up scoring but so often the sac bunt attempt fails anyway, and if nothing else, the out helps the other pitcher to relax a bit and gives him a better opportunity to get out of the inning. Why help the opposing pitcher out of trouble? One more run and the bullpen wouldn't have had to go five plus innings, and a tired bullpen is not a good thing with Samardzija getting the start tonight.

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