Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Sean Marshall

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Gamecast: September 1st vs. Astros - No. 5 Starter

GameCastBrian Moehler (8-9, 5.26 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (9-7, 3.06 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs are still playing bad, but lets take a look at the fifth part of our series looking at the 2010 Chicago Cubs.

Starting Pitcher - No. 5 Starter (??????????)

Contract 2009: 7 Million

Contract 2010: ????????

Stats 2009: 8-8, 4.19 ERA in 129 innings. 152/58 K/BB with a 1.29 WHIP

The big question is who is the fifth starter in the Cubs rotation. Granted, Randy Wells is really that guy this year, the Cubs don't have a 5th pitcher for the next season. Do the Cubs resign Rich Harden or do they let Sean Marshall have another shot at starting? Harden will probably be better, but of course there are health concerns there, and Marshall has been up and down.

If the Cubs sign Harden to a one-year deal it could be about 10 million, so the Cubs might be less than willing to give that kind of money.

Running Totals
2010 Payroll:
44.8 Million (4 Starting Pitchers)
2010 Average: 12.2 Million a player

Who's Hot

Anybody playing the Cubs.

Who's Not

The Cubs

Conclusions

The Cubs have been just about impossible to watch this season, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Here's hoping for a change of luck tonight.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Pirates 1, Losing Streak Over

Cubs win
Lou Piniella finally figured out how to overcome his bullpen troubles: pray for rain.

One thing for sure - based on the last two games, the Cubs offense has finally revitalized a little.  In a rain-soaked (and shortened) game, the Cubs scored 6 in 5 innings.  Every Cubs regular got on base at least once except Ryan Freel, while the Questionable Quartet -- or at least, the half that played -- were key contributors to the offense.

Milton Bradley was 0 for 1 with 2 walks and a run scored and Mike Fontenot went 2 for 3, raising his AVG back up to .219 (hey, we'll take it).

Also, Kosuke Fukudome continues to be on pace to out-slug his '07 self, after hitting his 5th homerun of the year in the 1st. 

Sean Marshall, meanwhile, continues to prove that he was a good choice to start.  He got a cheap Complete Game (although I suspect they won't "count" it as such in his stats), dropped his ERA to 3.70, and struck out 6.

The Cubs play in the rubber game today -- something we haven't been able to look forward to in a long, long time.

2009 Player Previews - Sean Marshall

Sean Marshall

Quick Links

I already congratulated the young lad last week upon his winning the Great Fifth Starter Debate of 2009.  I mentioned that I feel quite confident Marshall will easily match the output of last year's fifth starter, the never-lamented Marquis du Suck.


Why am I so confident? Well, first of all, Marshall is going to get more than the 28 starts Marquis made last year. Even if he doesn't win any more than the 11 games du Suck won last year, he will take up more innings (> 167) which makes life easier for the poor souls and confirmed arsonists in the pen. It will also make Larry Rothschild's life easier, and in turn Sweet Lou's, and in turn, our own lives will be fuller, more enriched, and much more pleasant.


But perhaps I expect more out of the 6'7" lefty.  Maybe, based on this spring's stellar performances, I expect Sean Marshall to be this year's story of reDempster-tion


Good lord, that was awful.  Sorry.  Really.


But can he take two steps up - go right from "bullpen guy", skipping over "serviceable starter", all the way to "All-Star"?  Here are some things he has in his favor:

  • size - delivers pitches with steep arm angle
  • lefthandness - hey, if Bud Light can make a big thing out of "Drinkability", then I can adopt "Lefthandedness" as a desirable trait
  • attitude and coachability - Marshall has done his best historical work while being directly tutored by Greg Maddux in 2006.  Unlike many big leaguers, he demonstrates a willingness to learn and adjust. 
  • confidence - he is showing a confidence this year that has spread to his coaches and teammates, and in this game, having your team behind you is more than half the battle
  • the so-called best offense in the league behind him

What Sean doesn't have in his favor is a track record.  Dempster for his part had enjoyed a couple of productive years as a starter for Florida before wrecking his elbow.  Dempster also ran up mountains the whole winter of 2007-8, and to my knowledge, Marshall wasn't running any mountains near his offseason home.  It was also a Contract Year for Dempster - I'm not even sure Marshall will be arbitration eligible next year, with 2 years and change in MLB service time, so the lure of a big payday is not in Sean's immediate future.


Most national scouting sources rate Marshall as a poor man's Andy Pettitte, only with a twin brother instead of an asswipe friend.  What this also means is that unlike the rest of the Cubs' rotation, Marshall doesn't have "great stuff" that overpowers hitters.  His success will rely on his control, command, and any resulting matchup issues that may arise when opposing teams bench their left-handed hitters on days Marshall pitches. 


Most published internet "projections" via standard tools seem to have been formed before he won the "fifth starter" role, which on a team with Tricky Rich Harden, will actually end up getting 32-33 starts in 2009.  None of the tools projections show him with more than 110 innings - I project he will have above 180, hopefully well above 180.  He has never thrown this many innings before, but prior to last year, Dempster hadn't thrown that many innings since 2002. 


I am not saying just because Dempster took a quantum leap in 2008, that Marshall will necessarily make such a leap in 2009.  But if attitude and pride have anything to do with it, then perhaps he will. 

Our congrats to Sean Marshall

This is a dull, dull camp when the biggest news all week is Sean Marshall making the rotation.


Marshall dealing. He ain't the best looking man, is he?It is a dull camp, and Marshall's winning the "fifth starter" battle is the biggest news all week, even more than Milton Bradley's flu or what's in Micah Hoffpauir's iPod.  I myself figured that Sean's good nature would make it easy for Uncle Lou to slot him, for the third consecutive year, in the coveted "swing" role for sixth starter and "oh s**t" long relief.  Conversely, I also figured that Aaron Heilman's past griping about not being allowed to start would make it just as easy for Lou to give him his chance given a good spring, which he has had. 


I might argue the psychological effects of this move with Piniella, if given the chance (like that would ever happen) but Marshall is for the moment King of the Hill, at least every five days or so.  Heilman has been told that he should learn to make himself comfy and useful along the third base line for this season, and so far, I haven't seen any public expressions of displeasure from his camp.


Marshall seems like a great guy, and at times is quite good at what he does, and I have no doubt he can at least match the performance of the Marquis du Suck, for a lot less money, and a lot less New Jersey attitude.  I have gotten myself in trouble for speaking for the group, but I think I can this time when I wish Sean our most hearty congratulations for becoming the "fifth starter" for us.


Honestly, with Rich Harden on board, Sean's probably the 4th starter.  Maybe 4 and a 1/2th.  In otherwords, Marshall will make more starts this year than Harden. 


The article linked above announcing Marshall's achievement also alludes to the current state of the bullpen.  Uncle Lou announced there are "five spots locked up" in a seven man bullpen, namely Heilman, Cotts, Gregg and Marmol.  Yeah, I counted four names, too.  And it isn't like Six-fingers Alfonseca is still around, which may cause an elderly man like Lou to miscount.  So either Lou needs a calculator or one other mystery man has made the roster.  And I'm not sure Lou needs a calculator. 


I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that Hendry has told Lou that he must carry the mystery 'fifth' man, but Lou is so damn disgusted with the pitcher's performance this spring that he cannot name him in public yet, ala Scott Eyre aka Steve Ire last year.  I'm going to put my money on Luis Vizcaino - because Hendry traded duSuck for him, and duSuck was always one of Hendry's guys.  Plus we owe him $4.5MM whether he lifts a finger all year or not.  Whether you think he is done - and I most certainly do, and think we should just eat his contract - that's a LOT of eating.


So this leaves two spots to be nabbed between Hart, Gaudin, Ascanio and Guzman (all of whom have sucked most vacuously so far, and why hasn't anyone started calling Ascanio "Ass Can" yet?) and David Patton aka The Rule V Guy, Mike Stanton or Jason Waddell (resident LOOGYs).  If I had a guess, Lou's going to pick Stanton, because just like IT executives who keep buying IBM and Microsoft because "nobody got fired buying IBM or Microsoft", nobody ever got fired giving old left-handed guys a spot in their pen.  I would also guess Gaudin, although he hasn't done dick since he came here.


Congratulations, Sean Marshall!  Don't forget - don't leave that curve just hanging there, ok, sport?

Marshall Law: A Quest for a Rotation Spot

I don't have long to write about the Sun-Times’ article, but it would appear that Sean Marshall has no intentions of letting Chad Gaudin (who owns a 13.38 ERA), Aaron Heilman (Who really only has two pitches) or Jeff Samardzija (who is better suited to the pen) take the 5th spot in the rotation.

Marshall threw another 4 1/3 innings yesterday had has a .68 ERA for the spring. I love the fact that Lou has competition brewing between these guys, and is not inclined to name a starter for another week.

Heilman has looked good with his 12 K’s in eight innings. Maybe we could find a taker for him in a trade that actually might help the club. If not, he can stay in the pen for few weeks and wait for somebody to go down.

In other news, the Cubs sent four more to minor league camp, and the roster stands at 53 now. Only 28 more cuts to go.

The Lefty Question

With Sean Marshall horsewhipping the Oakland Athletics of Oakland to the tune of perfect over 3 innings, we have a favorite horse* in the fifth starter race.  But the imminent threat Marshall earning a spot in the rotation brings to light one of the big concerns (or as big a concern we can have with a 90+ win team in the NL Central) of the 2009 season.  Who will be the lefty in the bullpen?

(* a metaphorical horse)

You see, the Cubs have brought in a couple lefties who fill the slots of "terrible lefty" and "old and terrible lefty".  That leave room in the bullpen still for a LOOGY, a solid lefty, or the heir apparent to Sandy Koufax.  Any of these options would be great, but neither Cotts nor Stanton are going to fill any one of these rolls.  And don't get your sights set on Marshall stepping out of the rotation and into the LOOGY roll.  Marshall's fairly terribly against lefties and would likely struggle to record the key "O" in LOOGY. 

So do we worry?  Well, no, I suppose not really.  I mean, last year's Cubs lacked any real lefty and managed a solid 97 wins.  And actually, if it's just outs against lefties you want, Kevin Gregg is pretty solid with lefties posting a .622 OPS against last year.  That's probably as good as you're going to get from most LOOGY's anyway.

Do I want Hendry to go out an grab a solid lefty to replace the Cotts/Stanton monstrocity?  Sure, that'd be great.  Is it a paticularily big deal?  Not really.  But when it's Spring and there's not a damn thing going on, you latch onto any possible conflict. So, in that vain...

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!  WE NEED A LEFTY!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND JAKE PEAVY!!!!!!!!!!  AND...A TINY MONKEY!!!!!!!!!  WITH A HAT!!!!!!!!!

a little red hat.  And he could dance. 

would anyone like to hear a story about a tiny, dancing monkey?

Goatriders vs. Muskrat

Or: who do YOU trust?  Your buddies on GROTA, or Carrie Muskat?


In Carrie's favor: she's down in Arizona, we're not.


In Our favor: she is also the handpicked shill, paid by MLB.com, to spout the company line for the Cubs.  Plus much of what she says doesn't make any sense whatsoever, at least to us. 


Case in point: she is anoiting Sean Marshall as the early favorite for "fifth starter".  On the other hand, it appears to me that if Rich Harden is being limited to 25 starts this year, as Lou Piniella has been on record several times as saying, then by definition Harden himself is the "fifth starter", even if he is better than fifth in terms of efficiency.  Fourth starters make as many starts as the other three counterparts, around 35 or so.  So whatever spring-training battle that occurs would be for the 4th slot, after Dempster, Zambrano and Lilly.


Does Marshall deserve this slot?  In a just world, perhaps.  He has done everything asked of him the past two years, totally without complaint.  In my opinion, he pitched his best early in 2006, and he was quick and effusive with his propers to Greg Maddux, who if you recall was still in pinstripes at the time.  I have never considered it a coincidence that, once MadDog left, Marshall declined somewhat into his current state, a slightly-below-.500 pitcher.  Of course, the league adjusted to him after his first tour around the league, as well.  So, then, he must re-adjust, but that would require patience and a regular turn in the rotation, neither of which we have been able to afford the past two seasons. 


So stack Sean up against his competition.  Out of the four candidates for this year's role, Jeff Samardzija has the highest upside, but is the most raw and would be most willing to start the year in AAA, all else being equal.  Even the Muskrats of this world, who tend to stay inside the box, concede that the Shark is not returning to his effective 2008 bullpen role this year.  By the end of the season, Shark might be back in the pen - who knows?  But he is not starting out that way this year.


Out of the remaining three, it appears fairly close to even, in terms of short-term potential.  Any of these three could conceiveably meet or even slightly exceed the annual contribution of the Marquis du Suck, given decent offensive support behind them.  I worry that Marshall's outstanding attitude may work against him, because Piniella has stated many times that he appreciated and valued Marshall in the swing role he has filled in the past.  So even though Marshall certainly DESERVES the chance to toil in the regular rotation, Uncle Lou very well may cite the Eminent Domain doctorine, and force Marshall to "swing" again, at least one more year. 


Hey, you might say.  What seems to apply to Marshall does not necessarily apply to the Shark?  Yes, that is what I am saying.  I am projecting that Lou will apply a double standard to his two young pitchers, because Shark has a certain amount of leverage (his contract, and the faint threat that he will chuck it all to go catch pigskins) coupled with Marshall's "team first" spirit that some of his other teammates seem to lack.


Like, for instance, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman.  Unlike Marshall, both of these "gentlemen" HAVE complained publicly about working in various big league bullpens. Since we have both of them in camp, and since they themselves have about as much potential as Marshall to win 12-13 games this year, I have theorized that these two will comprise the heart of the Roster Rumble this spring. 


So is the Squeaky Wheel getting the Grease?  Yep, they are.  Unfair or not, Lou and his staff are only human, after all, and since there is no major dropoff of potential productivity between Marshall and the better of Gaudin/Heilman, I believe that the Cubs field management will take the Path of Least Resistance in this matter and hope that one or the other of the disgruntled relievers will rise up and take the 4th spot. 


If both suck the pipe this spring, which is just as likely as anything, then look for Marshall or the Shark in that spot.  But you have to imagine that Piniella is secretly hoping that either Heilman or Gaudin will rise up and take the spot, for Lou is not looking forward to having to put both of them in the bullpen, and hear their excuses when they cough up leads. 


Or, maybe, it's just me who hopes one of them rises up, because I myself don't want to hear their excuses when they blow leads.  Out of all the dues I have paid as a longtime Cubs fan, I believe I have watched MORE than my share of mopes over the years trying to rationalize why they have blown leads for us.


We'll see which one of us is right - GROTA or the Muskrat...let the best marsupial win!

Cubs - Marlins Pictures

I'm back from Brazil and celebrated by attending today's disappointing loss to the Marlins. As Kurt mentioned, Rich Harden pitched well but got into pitch count trouble and didn't last into the sixth. Sean Marshall pitched very well, but gave up a dinger to the Cub Killer Jeremy Hermida.

Sean Marshall
Sean Marshall pitched three innings of one hit ball, but that one hit was Jeremy Hermida's second game tieing home run of the day, and his third in the past two games.
Image courtesy of The Cubdom Photo Gallery

Again, the offense was thin. Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto hit solo shots, but two runs in twelve innings generally spells L-O-S-S and today was no different.

Click on the thumbnails below to see some of my gameday pictures in The Cubdom photo gallery. Also, if you check back tomorrow, I'll have a bunch more.

Reed JohnsonNeal CottsMark DeRosa hits the ballHenry Blanco sacrifice buntLou Piniella and Matt Sinatro argue with the umpires

Friday Odds and Ends, Pitching Is King Edition

Sean Gallagher goes to the pen, Sean Marshall stays in the rotation. (Meanwhile, Jason Marquis stays in the rotation. Isn’t life grand?) Piniella says that Marmol is starting to be a “little bit of a concern.” Out in Cub fandom the words “full blown panic” might be more descriptive.

As the All Star Break nears, trade rumors mount. Chris DeLuca runs them down. Short version: the Cubs could pursue Sabathia or Harden if they had better prospects, or Randy Wolf if they didn’t learn a lesson from the Steve Trachsel deal last season. DeLuca adds:

Another Padre who definitely might interest Hendry is former Cub Greg Maddux.

Definitely might.

Meanwhile, the Toronto papers are split on whether or not Burnett is or isn’t being shopped for a shortstop. The team’s president denies actively shopping Burnett, but says the Jays could deal him to “affects the long range betterment of the club.” Spoken like a Canadian.

The Brewers, on the other hand, are in the thick of the bidding for Sabathia. Rosenthal says that the Cubs and Phillies can’t match the Brewers’ farm system.

Trading Bedard is not priority number one for the Mariners, but they’re not ruling it out. Stark also makes a valuable point:

There's no commodity teams chase harder at the deadline than starting pitching. And it's mind-boggling how rarely it gets them anywhere. … So remember, friends, there's no assurance that trading for a C.C. Sabathia is going to give your team any better chance of winning the World Series than trading for, say, Tim Redding. And that's a fact.

The reason, said [Rockies GM Dan] O'Dowd, is simply that those starting pitchers only get to play every five days. So "just look at the number of starts a starting pitcher is going to get by the end of September," he said. "It's probably 10. So if the guy doesn't dominate in eight of those 10 starts, it's a disappointing trade."

Too true.

Trading for a pitcher - harder than it seems

Okay, I am pretending to be Jumbo Jim Hendry now, which is a mental exercise I go through nearly every day.  If only I enjoyed, say, the Bowflex or the LifeCycle as much.

I am extremely hesitant to mess with my team's chemistry right now, and thus my list of untouchables is much longer than Kyle's at this point.  Here is what I am willing to part with for a pitcher:

  • Column "A" - starting pitchers - Hill OR Marshall OR Gallagher
  • Column "B" - line drive hitters - Murton OR Hofpauir OR Colvin
  • Column "C" - middle infielders - Patterson OR Cedeno OR Fontenot

I would prefer one from Column "A", one from Column "B", and one from Column "C".  What do you suppose that would buy me?

I think it would buy me A. J. Burnett.  I also agree with most that believe that Burnett is just a slightly less xtreme Kerry Wood.

I do not think it would buy me Erik Bedard.  Maybe Bill Bavasi would have taken that bait, but the new guy is going to be a bit more hesitant, waiting for the big score.  He'd probably want TWO from Column "A", Colvin and Cedeno.  I'm not really willing to give him Gallagher AND Marshall AND Cedeno for Bedard.

I would give the Indians all that for Sabathia.  I am still unconvinced of Cedeno's baseball IQ, I don't think Marshall has more than 4th starter potential, and I'm not sure Colvin is what he thinks he is.  So sure, I'd give that up. 

But I don't think the Tribe is going to settle for that.  They are going to go into this, ultimately, wanting Soto - since Victor Martinez seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.  Of course, I tell them no plucking way, but now I am on the defensive.  They probably think they are entitled to two from Column A PLUS either Soulpatch Reed, Theriot or Marky Mark.

If this were the offseason, and I was guaranteed I could sign the Big Sunnybitch, I might give it more consideration.  But not now.  They can't have anyone out of my regular lineup when we are leading the MLB.  No way I phuck with that. 

So...harder than you think.  Most here would prefer that either Marshall comes back and takes charge, or Gallagher takes another step up and takes charge, or maybe Hill extracts his thumb from his ass and takes charge.  There is a certain 'retained value' to this scenario, true.  But I have always believed that deserving players should get what they deserve, and that their current team should do what they can to make sure that happens; to not stand in the way of their development.  I believe that RIGHT NOW Murton and Hofpauir deserve to play every day for an AL team, and Marshall deserves to start for an ML team, and that Cedeno deserves to play every day for an ML team. 

Just not mine.

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