Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Kevin Gregg

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2009 Player Previews - Kevin Gregg

Kevin GreggQuick Links
Closers, Ex-Govs, and Caps.  Oh My.
Gregg to close, Marmol to spoil

You know it's funny how these Player Previews have worked out. We scheduled them about a month in advance, before we knew who would win roster spots, who would be surprise cuts, and who would be awarded which positions on the team. That's one reason why Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol are being written about in this, the last week of the Previews ... because we knew that the closer's role was no certain thing. But I have to confess that I am sincerely surprised that Gregg won the job.

Now the next question is ... can he actually close? His history suggests he can, but nobody will ever confuse him for In-His-Prime Gagne.

Randall Kirk Myers once said that in order to be considered an effective closer, you need to save your games at an 80% or better ratio. Since he was once one of the best closers in the game - who resoundingly trounced an angry Cub fan during a game - I've never really doubted the guy. Over the past 2 years, Gregg's been closing for the Marlins. He's saved 61 games in that time to 15 blown, an 80% conversion rate. That's the good news. The bad news is that last year he only saved 29 and blew 9 - 76%.

It remains to be seen if Gregg can be as effective a closer as Kerry Wood was last year, but let's not forget that even Wood had some ridiculous bouts with consistency. The real question is whether or not Gregg can be counted on in, say, a one-run game in October. I don't know about you, but I'd probably have to change my drawers if Gregg entered the game in that situation. Then again, I'd be crapping myself if Marmol was in there to. Hell, I'd probably be nervous about any pitcher on the Cubs closing out a one-run playoff game with the exception of one guy ... Carlos Zambrano.

But until that insanely tense moment arrives, Gregg can close and will probably close well. And if he doesn't, they can replace him with Marmol no bubbles no troubles.

Closers, Ex-Govs and Caps. Oh my.

I don’t often agree with Sun-Times columnist Greg Couch. Hell, I’m not even agreeing with him now actually. I’m merely recognizing that the words he wrote today happened to fall into an order that made sense for about a paragraph.

In his most recent column, Couch wrote this...

“Something weird is happening here with the Cubs. Understand this: The latest news is about Carlos Marmol. It's not that Kevin Gregg is the Cubs' new closer, but that Marmol is not.”

He them promptly followed up this kernel of logic with about 700 words of non-sensical rambling. No wonder the Sun-Times is going bankrupt (Hey-O).

But Couch is right in the sense that the real news here is about Marmol and not Gregg, but for a reason that I think is less obvious. (Full disclaimer first: I am a supporter of Gregg as the closer over Marmol. Big deal. You wanna to fight about it?)

Kurt and Rob already discussed the two sides of the Great Closer Debate of 2009 with reasonable arguments for both pitchers, but maybe Lou is telling us something about the state of the bullpen. A while ago, I wrote a post about the bullpen turnover and how the current ‘pen looks almost completely different than the ’08 model. Now things look even more different. When it’s all said and done (and the fate of the Shark is decided), Marmol could very well be the only significant returning reliever.

While it’s true that Gregg had an excellent spring, perhaps Lou’s decision to give Mr. LensCrafters the closing role was based on his need to have some sustainability and familiarity in the bullpen. Lou knows what Marmol can do and he knows what Marmol is good at.  But for guys like Gregg, Heilman and Vizcaino, there’s going to be an adjustment period.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think Lou would be afraid to take a chance on Marmol as the closer if he had confidence in the rest of his bullpen. So while I think Gregg is probably the right choice for the start of the season, I’m also worried about the state of the ‘pen.

Wrigley (expletive) Field

Strange article in the Trib today about Blago’s secret talks with Tribune Co. over the state purchasing Wrigley Field. The story has cameo appearances from familiar Cubs names like Sam Zell, Crane Kenney, John McDonough, Lou Piniella and even Larry Rothschild.

I knew Ex-Gov was a fan, but he might as well have been the third base coach with all the contacts he had in the organization.

Anyway, the article says that Blago was trying to save Wrigley from the evil powers of Old Man Zell, who wanted to demolish the stadium and erect a new park in the mold of Coors Field. Or maybe Blago just wanted to hold the sale of the Cubs and Wrigley Field hostage until he could force Zell to fire Chicago Tribune journalists who criticized him?

I highly doubt that Zell wanted to build a new stadium. The dude probably wanted to sell the Cubs and Wrigley from Day 1. Why would he waste time building a new stadium? so the hostage theory makes more sense to me.

The moral of this story is that Blago is not really a Cubs fan. How do I know this? Well, if he was threatening to slow the sale of the team/stadium for his own personal gains, then that means he had no regard for the Cubs’ attempt to trade for Jake Peavy. Clearly the team cannot get Peavy until the sale is final. Why would a true Cubs fan get in the way of that? Answer that question sir!

Plus all those expletives makes him sound more like a Sox fan to me.

Victory over the Red-Bill Caps?

On cubs.com, everyone’s favorite “journalist” Carrie Muskat had one of her always entertaining mailbag articles in which she answered questions from fans just like you.

One reader asked about the disappearance of the CoolFlo helmets and the reemergence of the standard batting helmet.

For those of you not as uni-obsessed as I am, the Cubs wore the new, futuristic CoolFlo helmets last season. The new helmets have fancy vents and are supposedly more comfortable than the older models. However, the team returned to the standard model this spring and will use the older version in the 2009 season. According to Muskat, this is because the CoolFlo helmets broke too easily. Tell that to Sammy Sosa’s face.

Anyway, while this was something I have been wondering for the past few weeks, Muskat drops some intriguing info in at the end of her answer.

“Also, no red bill on their caps,” she writes.

Wait, what? Does this mean the Cubs have finally decided to ditch the horrendous red-bill road caps that I despise with my every waking breath? Or are the simply not going to be wearing red on their away batting helmets anymore?

Damn you Muskat! Why do you taunt me like this? These 7 words are going to haunt me until Opening Day!

Viva la all blue caps. The revolution lives.

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.

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