Each Wednesday we take a look at some of the questions posed to our beloved Cubs beat writer, Carrie Muskat and see how she did with answering the tough questions. Did she tow the company line, or give us some actual insight into the inner workings of Cubdom?
With the late struggles of Dempster and late dominant performance from Wood, can you see the Cubs re-signing Wood and offering him the closer spot? He has proved he can pitch one to two innings on consecutive days, and his experience and resurging dominance can make him an elite closer in this league.
— Carlos F., Vallejo, Calif.
The Cubs would like to keep Wood, and I think he enjoyed his relief role enough that he wants to do it again. Whether he’ll be the closer may depend on what the team decides to do with Dempster and if they put him back into the rotation, which is something he wants to do. That’s a topic the Cubs brass has to talk about.
I’m happy with the job that Dempster has done. He’s a more effective pitcher as a reliever than a starter. When he was starting, he had a career ERA of 4.99 as opposed to the 4.11 ERA as a reliever. In addition, is he really any better than we already have in the rotation? We have Zambrano, Lilly, Hill as locks, and Marquis and Marshall who should be the 4th and 5th guys. Do you really want to give Dempster a chance over a young lefty in Sean Marshall? I don’t. Just because Wood has good stuff doesn’t mean he needs to be the closer. Look at the Cleveland Indians this year with Joe Borowski and the Detroit Tigers last year with Todd Jones. Both bullpens had guys with electric stuff in the late innings and then gave the ball to a guy with less than ideal stuff.
What is holding Marmol back from being the full-time closer? He was lights out this season and has electric stuff. Do the Cubs plan on seeing how he does in the closer role?
— Josh B., Louisburg, Kan.
What held Marmol back was experience. He has no fear, which is a good quality for a closer, plus two very effective pitches, but this was his first season in the bullpen. If you watched closely, he was eased into late-inning work as the season progressed. Could he be a closer? Yes. Don’t forget Bob Howry, who was 8-for-12 in save situations when Dempster was hurt. If Dempster goes into the rotation, Marmol could still set up Howry or Wood. The more arms, the better.
I like the role that Marmol played on this team last year. He was brought into the game in some of the biggest situations and delivered most of the time. Why take one of your best relievers out of that role. There are other times beside the 9th inning that call for a lights out guy. In fact, I would venture to guess that the 9th inning is the key inning less than the majority of the time. I want my best guy available in the most crucial time, and that’s what Marmol gives us.
As one of many Cubs fans who were photographed weeping during the last game of the National League Division Series out on Waveland Avenue, I was wondering if the Cubs have plans on looking at pitchers this offseason? And if so, who might be the hot commodity?
— Matthew B., Des Moines, Iowa
If I had to list items on the Cubs’ wish list this offseason, it would be a left-handed power hitter and another starting pitcher. Let’s see who’s available. Players have two weeks after the World Series ends to file for free agency. And, Matthew, there’s no crying in baseball.
Am I missing something? Please explain to me why the Cubs need to add to their rotation? Their 4.19 starters ERA as a team was tied for 2nd in all of baseball, just 0.08 behind the ML leading Padres. We don’t need a starting pitcher this off-season. In addition to what we saw last year, we have Sean Gallagher and Kevin Hart that deserve a look at the job this spring. It’s time to start trusting the system.
Regarding your comment about Ryan Theriot and shortstop being “solid offensively,” the evidence is to the contrary. The NL average OPS (on-base plus slugging) at shortstop was .758 in 2007. Theriot was at .672. That’s minus-86 compared to the NL average at the position, by far the largest differential on the club in ’07. No other position was close to that in terms of substandard compared to league average. There’s no reason to infer that Theriot will be better in ’08. Alex Rodriguez is unrealistic, but the best way to improve the ’08 Cubs offense is at shortstop. It’s a hole offensively.
— Mark K., Washington, D.C.
Yes, the shortstop position for the Cubs was weakest in terms of OPS in comparison to the NL average and the Major League average. It wasn’t the only offensive hole. The Cubs also were deficient at catcher (.039 points below the league OPS) and at center field (.049 points below league OPS). Derrek Lee plus Aramis Ramirez plus Soriano did well enough to bring them back to the league average, and the Cubs ended up eighth in runs scored and eighth in OPS.
(If you’re scratching your head, Jeff Chernow at STATS Inc. says OPS corresponds more closely to run production, mathematically speaking, than pretty much any other offensive statistic.
When Theriot subbed in the leadoff spot for Soriano and hit .321, I got a zillion e-mails from people saying that Theriot should bump the $136 million outfielder at the top of the order. Theriot provides a lot of intangibles that don’t show up in the stats — like energy — and he and Mike Fontenot provided a spark in June and July. Theriot just ran out of gas in the last month. I didn’t say Theriot was a superstar, I said he was solid, and I still believe that.
The problem with Carrie’s argument is that we’re comparing Ryan Theriot to what we’ve had recently at the shortstop position? It’s become a bit of a black hole for the team since Shawon Dunston. We thought we had addressed it with Garciaparra, but it seems like it’s a position that has been tough to fill. I like Ryan Theriot’s style of play and his energy. However, remember how much the Cardinal fans loved the energy and performance out of Bo Hart, only to see him stink in limited action the next year. I’m still fine with Theriot in the lineup, but it’s a position I would resist changing if an upgrade was on the horizon.
I know many Cubs fans are excited about the possibility of acquiring Rodriguez. What about the slugger who batted behind him in the Yankees lineup? Bobby Abreu is a free agent this winter and would be the potent everyday left-handed batter the Cubs so desperately need. What are the odds the organization targets Abreu in the offseason?
— T.R.F., Palm Beach Co., Fla.
Abreu could be a free agent. His contract includes a team option for 2008 worth $16 million, or a $2 million buyout, so we’ll have to see what the Yankees do.
I don’t want Bobby Abreu. I understand he’s the kind of bat we need, but the price tag he’ll command is more than we need to spend for a player who will be 34 years old in 2008.
Everybody (fans) and so called radio experts keep saying Soriano should bat fourth or fifth. The power numbers would be more beneficial to the team that way. Has manager Lou Piniella ever considered batting him second? With Theriot on base before him, hopefully he would still get plenty of fastballs to hit.
— Dan M., Hinsdale, Ill.
This topic was discussed all season, and no matter what the numbers, or the so called experts say, the Cubs made a commitment to Soriano to be the leadoff hitter. For your information, he batted .308 (167-for-542) batting first; hit .179 (5-for-28) batting third; and was 0-for-8 hitting fifth.
Soriano wants to bat leadoff. The Cubs knew that before they brought him into the fold. It isn’t a big surprise. We have him, now we have to deal with what we bought.