Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Salvation and the Solution

Woo, read this blog title again. Sounds pretty heavy.

For about a week now I've been promising a closer look at the Cubs bullpen, particularly at Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. They were supposed to be the iron support that held up the pen. Instead they've been as shaky and inconsistent as every other mope in the bullpen and they are leaving Cub fans with sick stomachs and lowered expectations. But how bad are they?

Through a month of the season, Gregg and Marmol have been flat-out mediocre. On the surface they have combined to make 34 appearances, pitching 30.1 innings of work, surrendering 25 hits, walking 24, and striking out 36. Their combined ERA is 4.15. 49 runners in 30 innings is not exactly stunning.

But looking at the specifics, we see the following.

Kevin "Salvation" Gregg
April 26th is an important date for Gregg. Before that date, he'd pitched 7 innings, surrendering 8 hits, 5 walks, and 5 earned runs - that's an ERA of 6.43. He was also 1 for 2 in save attempts.

Since April 26th, Gregg has thrown 8.1 innings, surrendering 7 hits, 5 walks, and 2 earned runs - that's an ERA of 2.16, and he's been 5 for 5 in save attempts. Obviously the bad remains the walks. I'm not sure if it's a pitcher problem or a strategy problem. Maybe Gregg needs to challenge the hitters more than he has. Then again, 3 of his 5 walks since April 26th came in one outing.

Carlos "The Solution" Marmol
For Marmol, his season begins and ends on April 29th. That was the date in which he got beaten like a dog that just pissed all over Mike Tyson's bearskin rug. Before April 29th, Marmol had pitched 7.2 innings, allowing 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 earned. His ERA was 2.35. Since April 30th, Marmol has pitched 7 innings, allowing 4 hits, 7 walks, and 1 earned run. That's an ERA of 1.29. Again, the walks are troubling - especially considering Marmol's history of losing control. The Cubs can't pretend April 29th never nappened, but any stat-head knows that to give a fair account you remove the best and worst number and average out the rest. On average, Marmol has been fine.

Don't Blow It
Obviously these are just 2 guys in the bullpen. Their success in May has been great, but the Cubs are still trotting out Neal Cotts and Dave Patton every couple of days and Aaron Heilman has alternated between the mundane and the miraculous. But while neither Gregg nor Marmol have been without their problems, we should feel comfortable when the Cubs enter the 8th with a lead. The trick now is to have two reliable options for the 7th and three reliable options for the 6th.

That's a tall order.

As Unofficial Leader of the

As Unofficial Leader of the "What Are You Doing Holding On To Angel Guzman?" Movement (that's the WAYDHOTAG movement for short), I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with the way this guy has pitched. Despite never having put up any sort of impressive numbers at any point in his professional career, this kid is throwing strikes, missing bats, and getting outs. Mid-to-high 90s fastball, 90mph slider--yeah, that works for me.

I'm already pretty confident that the Cubs will win most of their games in which they have the lead after 6 innings. Furthermore, I love the fact that Guzman and Marmol, guys with much better stuff than Gregg, will pitch before the team's anointed closer. That way, if we extend our lead in the 7th or 8th, Gregg gets more of a cushion to work with.

This Aaron Heilman guy... I'm confused. He had a fantastic spring, and he's had good seasons in MLB before. But the walks, man, the walks... just killer. Same for Cotts, I guess; who the hell knows what's up with him. And does David Patton belong in the majors? Probably not. We'll have to see what this Jose Ascanio kid is capable of (I have a feeling he'll be pretty meh-diocre as well).

In the meantime, however, I'm convinced this team will win a looooot of the games it leads after 6 innings.

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