View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



August 2011



Game 123 – Don't count your chickens…

Written by , Posted in General

Cubs 5, Astros 6

Box Score / Highlights

I think this image is appropriate in the top spot today. Carlos Marmol ruins what could’ve been the easiest game recap in the history of game recaps. Cubs played flawlessly for 8 innings, but since it was a save situation, Quade brings in Marmol who goes on to give up a walk off pinch hit grand slam to Brian Bogusevic.

What went right:

  • Cubs started the game with three straight singles and scored two runs in the first inning. Tyler Colvin and Aramis Ramirez would add home runs to extend the lead. (Why would you ever throw Colvin a fastball?) Carlos Pena was on base four times as he hit two deep doubles to go along with two walks.
  • Ryan Dempster had another quality start as he threw seven innings while giving up four hits, two earned runs, three walks and seven strikeouts.  Kerry Wood threw a scoreless inning of relief.
  • No errors!
  • Sam Adam’s Octoberfest beer is in stores now.

What went wrong:

  • Look at the game graph. Going into the 9th inning, the Cubs had a 98.6% chance of winning the game. Marmol went wrong.


Cubs made a splash in the draft and I don’t understand people saying they “overpaid” for someone. The draft is the best place to get talent at a good price. What is $1.275M for Shawon Dunston Jr. going to do to hurt the organizations future? Nothing! Nothing at all. Get the talent in the organization and see what happens. You can’t develop a player unless he’s in the organization, and if you’re going to let a few hundred thousand dollars get in the way of that, you need to think about how many millions are wasted on bench players and relief pitchers that don’t help the team at all.

Albert Pujols is a free agent this offseason, are you going to pay him for what he’s done the last few years or are you going to pay him for what you think he’ll produce for your team over the duration of the new contract? The same answer should apply to those you draft.

Back to the Cubs haul…the Cubs spent $12 million on this years draft, validating Tom Ricketts talk of pouring money into scouting and development. The biggest surprise was Dillon Maples in the 14th round for $2.5M, the largest bonus ever given to someone after the 2nd round. Baseball America ranked Maples as the 46th overall prospect going into the draft and he’ll slide into the Cubs Top 10 for 2012.

The Cubs 1st round pick, Javier Baez, signed for $2.7M and you’ll see him at the top of some Cubs prospect lists next year with Brett Jackson remaining at the top of others. He was a shortstop in high school but will probably move to third base in the future.

My favorite is already Dan Vogelbach, 2nd round, who some scouts say had the most raw power in the entire draft. He’s a 1B in a DH’s body who won a home run derby which included a 508 ft bomb.

By spending so much in the later rounds on prospects that dropped due to bonus demands, Tim Wilken felt the Cubs pulled in 8 or 9 players that would have went in the first three rounds on talent alone. This is how a large market team should operate. Actually, that should be how all teams operate. Otherwise you’re the White Sox who spent just over $2M.

For more on the draft, here’s an interview with Tim Wilken from the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles.

Stars of the Game
Base on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Brian Bogusevic (.817 WPA)

2nd Star – Ryan Dempster (.217 WPA)

3rd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.178 WPA)

  • Buddy

    Nice recap Norm, and nice draft by the Cubs (I can’t believe I just typed that second part). Looking forward to seeing Baez and Vogelbach.

  • Doug S.

    I want to use the word unbelievable, but when it involves Marmol anything has to be believable.

  • chet

    Three concerning things regarding Marmol as of late…..

    1) His fastball may have lost some velocity

    2) His fastball looks very flat compared to years past.

    3) He seems to be spinning his slider quite often nowadays

    Good thing we locked him up with that deal

  • mrbaseball2usa

    I turned this game off the Internet when I saw 5 – 2 going into the 9th. I’m almost glad, because I was literally starting to run the math on ‘realistic’ win streaks needed to get us back into the race. Oh well…. Wait ’til next year.

  • Randy

    Dear Carlos Marmol, Yesterday I took my son to his first Cubs game. I would like to thank you for assisting me in adjusting him to a lifetime of disappointment as a Cubs fan. Not only did you do this in the most heartbreaking fashion possible, you also proved that you have no business being a big league closer. I’ve seen Brian Bogasevic take several hundred at bats when he was in AAA, and the man has no ability as a clutch hitter. At this point, you deserve your job as closer about as much as Hendry and Quade deserve theirs. Look at what you’ve done! You have even turned me into the cynical troll all too common to this site.

  • Doc Raker

    Welcome to Cubdom Randy and Son
    Marmol has blown more than 20% of his save opportunities.


    Interestingly enough, Randy, troll is my security word.
    I think we should remove Marmol from the closer role and put someone else in it. I think Marmol can still make a fine reliever to help shorten the game.

  • Even with another blown save, Marmol remains our most valuable Carlos. MVC.

  • Randy

    I’d disagree Pena is our Most Valuable Carlos (MVC). I saw him save two Castro errors last night, and go 2 for 2 with a pair of walks. On top of that he is a top notch teammate. If you could combine both other Carlos, at a tenth of the price, i’d still take Pena.

  • I’ll give Pena the 2011 Defensive MVC, hands down. I have Carlos Z. slightly ahead of Carlos P. in the runnings for Offensive MVC. Marmol wins the overall MVC, and the team’s CY, or Carlos Young award.

  • Buddy

    I’m with Randy. Pena is the 2011 MVC. He’s been productive vs. RHP and played solid defense at 1B.

  • Jedi

    So now we’re going to have a Castro stat on error that “should’ve been”…your first baseman is supposed to be able to dig out balls in the dirt.

    Castro’s already catching enough crap for his errors (which is funny since our team already sucks so bad, we’re nitpicking the one good thing about it).

  • Wes

    Marmol’s mechanics/arm slot just do not lend themselves to maintaining control over the baseball. Very few pitchers have I ever seen have to rely on their slider to get the ball in the strike zone. Marmol’s fastball is all over the place, and given that his slider is not the same these days, his effectiveness is almost completely gone. I wish somehow his motion could be toned down a bit…

    Unreal loss last night. Most everyone else on the squad played great, even if it was against the Astros.

    At this moment… Players I would like to see kept for next year’s roster in an ideal world:

    Pena (only if 2 year deal or less)
    Johnson (4th OF only, NOT as a starter)

    Dempster (still solid)

    Russell/Smardjiza/Wood – 50/50 on each of these guys

  • Mark in Toronto

    I hate to say it, but Carlos Marmol is starting to look a lot like Kevin Gregg. I get the same uneasy feeling everytime Marmol comes into a game, just like I used to when Gregg was our closer.

  • Wes

    Keep in mind re: my above post…. “In an ideal world” only. I know we are stuck with alot of dead weight. Just giving my opinion that we currently have anywhere between 8-11 players on our roster who I feel can contribute to a winning club. (I’m not offering any Earth-shattering news there, I know. Just curious to see what others think)

  • Randy

    @Jedi – Castro is approaching Soriano error levels and that is with a gold glove calibur first baseman. First pick was in the dirt, not a bounce off the dirt, but the ball reached his glove at the dirt. Try that sometime it’s very hard, even for a pro. Second one sailed right of the bag and Pena literally had to reach up to snag it and not take off the runner’s head. I’m sorry but those are things that stats don’t keep track of well. He is putting on a show and making Castro look serviceable.

  • Seymour Butts

    Carlos Marmol has gone from being un-hittable to being un-watchable. Woody should be the closer next year IF he still has the heart to play.

    A lot of pitchers are head cases, the successful ones can be managed, Marmol has had a good shot at it and is still a head case, he doesn’t blow up like the other Carlos pitcher, but he implodes on the mound with that “I don’t understand” look on his face. How many pitchers can you remember where when he gets to an 0-2 count, has the batter KNOWING he has just to not swing and he will be walked?

  • Jedi

    Castro hasn’t even approached Shawon Dunston-esque wildness (who had 32 errors in his first full season). What’s more – Castro today has played basically the same amount that he played last year. His errors are down from 27 to 20 in basically the same amount of game time – plus he’s ONLY 21 years old. His range factor is 3rd in the NL and 8th in the entire MLB.

    The Rangers star Andrus (a year older than Castro, with an additional year of experience) has made 23 errors. Meanwhile Ian Desmond, ROY candidate for the Nationals has made 18 – oh yeah, he’s 25! Former Cub Ryan Theriot, and Marlins star Hanley Ramirez both have significantly worse fielding percentages than Castro.

    He’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be – especially when you consider he’s only 21 years old.

  • Jedi

    @Randy – the Soriano comparison is a terrible one. 2B and SS are completely different positions. The league average for errors as 2B last year was 12.5…the league average for SS was over 20 – the two situations just aren’t close to comparable.

  • Buddy

    Agreed Jedi. Castro’s range and arm are impressive, and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t cut down his errors over the next few years. As you point out, he’s only 21 years old. Even if he makes 20 errors per season, that’s one error every eight games. Not great, but not the world-ending situation some fans and writers seem to think it is. I’m more worried about his pitch selection. Hopefully that will improve with time as well.

  • Jedi

    His pitch selection will probably get a little better with familiarity – but he’s never going to be a guy that takes a ton of walks. What’s impressive is that he’s a .300+ hitter without really having much plate discipline at 21 years old.

    By the way, I think Buck, McCarver, and the ESPN Sunday night crowd have done as much to damage Castro’s reputation as anyone. They bring it up multiple times in every broadcast – it’s unnecessary, and it’s ignorant. Then again our own manager has said more about Castro’s errors this year than anything else he’s done (which is rather remarkable…the guy is basically our best player and the way the franchise promotes him, you’d think he was a washed up veteran who needed a change of position).

  • Randy

    Glad you brought up Dunstin. Did his error numbers go up or down after Grace took over at first base? At the ballgame so no time to look it up. My point was never to dis Castro, but to point out that as bad as we’ve been defensively we would have been a lot worse without Pena. And Aramis just hit a monster two run dinger! Happy birthday to me!!

  • Jedi

    Dunston was a career .967 fielder as a SS…his first two seasons were .958 and .961 – in 1987 (with Leon Durham at first) Dunston was at .969. He played the rest of his career with fielding percentages between .973 and .966 (except for 1996 where he was at .957). Basically, Grace made no real difference – the difference was after Dunston had two seasons and had turned 24 years old.

  • Happy birthday Randy…my best friend is also in attendance. Sent me a text that the shot was big. Drink a beer for me in my cubicle.

  • Randy

    Wasn’t what I asked Jedi, did his error total go up or down. You also are making the assumption that the increase in fielding percentage was due to age and experience, I don’t think you have evidence to support that statement. And Soto is rounding the bases as I type this rocket line drive over the fence!

  • Jedi

    His error total went up in Grace’s first year – because he played more games, which is why I provided the fielding percentage stats. And actually, Dunston’s stats definitely suggest that after his second year in the league he became an improved fielder (essentially raising his fielding percentage 10 points and staying there for the remainder of his career. So the data suggests too options 1) 1987 was a fluke that was repeated because Grace was THAT much better than Durham, or 2) Dunston actually got better after his second year in the league.

  • Randy

    Grace was that good defensively, answer me this disregarding offensive numbers or clubhouse quality, would you rather have Pena or Colvin at 1st trying to dig out those chilipeppers Castro launches? Coleman is done for the day, he has a arm slot issues his slider has a funky dip before he relases. GrabNOOOOO got the final out of the inning to minimize damage.

  • Jedi

    Then how do you explain Dunston continuing to field well AFTER he left the Cubs? Grace wasn’t catching those balls?

    Pena vs. Colvin? So a first baseman vs. a guy who doesn’t play first base? That sounds like a question that has NOTHING to do with Castro.

  • Randy

    Played fewer games? Or perhaps that he was no longer throwing 101mph from the hole to first. Now let’s step back, this entire conversation has been about Pena and you totally discounting his contribution defensively. I have seen way too many really bad or ill concieved throws from Castro over the past five months, including two last night a lesser first baseman would have missed. Castro is never going to be Ozzie Smith defensively. I hope his pitch selection gets better and he figures out when not to throw to first. As it is right now any improvement Castro has demonstrated has to take into account how good Pena has been.

  • Jedi

    I don’t know how to make it clearer. Dunston played MORE games in 1988 than he did in 1987. His error total in 1988 (with Grace) was higher than 1987 (without).

    Just where have I discounted Pena’s importance? My ENTIRE point was that everyone loses it every time Castro has an error as if it’s the end of the world – but it’s not. He’s a decent a fielder (especially for a 21 year old).

    So if Castro has improved this year it’s because the Cubs first baseman THIS year (Pena) is remarkably better than the Cubs first baseman LAST year (Derrek Lee). Not buying it – Lee was a Gold Glove fielder too.

  • Randy

    “So now we’re going to have a Castro stat on error that “should’ve been”…your first baseman is supposed to be able to dig out balls in the dirt.” Looks like an apologist statement for Castro at the expense of your first baseman, whom the thread was currently talking about. Jeff Baker/Xavier Naddy != Derrick Lee, or did you forget that Castro only got about a month and a half with Lee (whose jersey I’m wearing today). So yes I think that the evidence supports Carlos Pena being part of the reason Casto has been merely bad defensively rather than unplayable. Spin this however you want, but please stop defending Castro’s bad defending defensive play.

  • Jedi

    There’s no spin, and there’s been no Castro apologizing. Are you suggesting that first baseman isn’t supposed to be able to dig out balls in the dirt?

    Castro debuted the first week of May, Lee was traded a year ago this week. That makes them teammates for 92 games, Castro played in 125 – meaning they were teammates for basically 75% of Castro’s games. Amazing that we played 92 games in a month and a half.

  • Randy

    I’ll have to take a look tonight when I get home how many games Lee and Castro played together and see how many errors he had with and without. I have a feeling I’m going to end up vindicated. A first baseman’s job is to dig balls out of the dirt just like it is a shortstop’s job to not to throw balls in the dirt. On a side note the Cubs are now 4-19 in games I’ve attended, I should stop going to games.

  • Jedi

    No need to look it up Randy…I’ll make it part of the Northside Archives piece for tomorrow.

  • Consider using a pretend interview as the piece’s premise. Maybe Fakes Colvin, Castro, Lee, Pena, and Dunston could have a round table chat about the 1st baseman / SS relationship.

  • Buddy

    Not sure why this popped in my brain, but do you remember when Dunston charged Andy McGaffigan? Andy ducked, and Shawon flew right over him. Pretty funny if you haven’t seen it.

  • Larry Sproul

    Another dismal outing by Marmol . I would have Wood just continue and close it out . But what do I know .


    I feel dumber after reading this whole debate about Castro’s fielding

  • Doc Raker

    Smarja now has been numbers than Marmol for 2011. Smarja has been widely panned and dismissed from conversation about his contributions to the future due to early season failures. One must admit that the Smarj has a positive trend and he should be included in future plans. I would rather look to the Smarj for a late game bullpen staple than Marmol.

  • Doc Raker

    “better numbers than Marmol” is what I meant

  • Good call on The Shark…he has quietly developed into an asset in the pen. Riggs has done a good job on that front…same with Russell. Kid K and Shark are both lighting up the Juggs gun right now, especially when compared to Marmol. Something is wrong.