2010 was difficult to watch in many ways.  Check that, the first half of 2010 was difficult to watch.

Every game seemed to be tight.  Every game had the same theme…..the Cubs put up a run or two, the opposition puts up a run or two, and then we hit the late innings.  We insert the relievers and it was similar to watching a wooden dam in a cartoon take on water and start to buckle.  We watched and waited, aid (offense) never showed up,  and then finally the dam exploded and the water came crashing through into another loss. 

Some of the time it was an instant crash.  Insert reliever, watch reliever lose game over the course of five pitches, go to bed mad.  And some of the time it was Chinese water torture.  Drip, drip, drip…….AHHHHHHHH.  At first, my instinct was to blame the pitcher who finally ended up walking half the opposing lineup and then served the dinger.  Then it turned into hating the bullpen because it seemed to happen to just about every reliever we strolled out there.  Then, rational thought takes over, and we realize only  a marginal amount of the blame should hit the pitchers.

What we needed was insurance.  We needed more runs!!!!

My goal was to find a more logical way to assign blame.  How many runs is enough runs?  How many runs is too many to give up? In the end it was simple……

Four runs is the threshold.  If the pitching staff as a whole keeps the opposing team to less then four runs…..they did their job.  If the offense scores more then four runs then they did their job.  The number four is no man’s land.  If your losing games 3-2, 3-1,3-0 then the offense did not do enough.  If you are losing games 7-5, 8-6, 9-4 then the pitching staff is at fault.  If you win a game 9-3 …..then guess what, everybody did their job!

*the above theory has no sound or fundemental basis other then 4 runs seems like a nice place to put a point of fail.

Now, I know this sounds rather elementary and may not make any sense.  This is how I keep my sanity while watching the games.  My booze intake went up in 2010 and I blame it on the Cubs.  You see, I need to assign blame.  I need to know where the problem is, and when it’s the Cubs, it’s usually a myriad of areas and not just one.  So I have my system and you probably have yours.  If you don’t you can adopt mine and call it your own with your friends.  You have every right to think my four run theory is hogwash, which it probably is to many, and make up your own if you need it.  Some don’t need it, some are fine saying, “they just suck, I need to move on.”

On to 2011…….

All things being equal, our relief staff should have improved year over year.  It is really to early to start judging as we are only one week into spring training.  As you can see above, we didn’t have a bad staff last year, I feel they were not in positions to pitch without pressure.  After a while that wears on a staff.

We added Kerry Wood, which in my book is never a bad thing.  Adding him gives us a solid guy who can float between middle reliever, setup guy, and closer in a pinch if needed.  He won’t go very long but he can do two innings, which is nice.

The Cubs have invited 30 pitchers to spring training.  I have grouped the spring pitching staff into three categories right out of the gate…..

Category A:  We know we have a spot on the big club and we know what that role entails.

Zambrano, Garza, Dempster,Wells,Wood, Marmol,Marshall, Silva*, Grabow*

Category B:  We MIGHT get a spot on the big club but where we are not sure.

Cashner, Russell, Samardzija, Diamond, Coleman

Category C:  We may never pitch in the Majors and I am pitching for my baseball life.

Everybody else

A few notes…….

-Grabow and Silva make this team because of the money owed.  If they don’t break camp with the big boys it will be the disabled list.  Yes, they have both been horrible so far this spring….it’s early, it’s early.

-Sad but true, Samardzija is pitching for his baseball life this camp.  If he does not break with the team he is out of options.

-Esmailin Caridad (a member of Category C) has pitched in three games already this spring and has yet to allow a run or a hit over 2.2 innings.  Keep an eye on him as the spring wears on, he could snag a spot in the pen if guys like Berg and Russell keep blowing up.  Caridad has the stuff, and was supposed to be there last year, but did not last long in his major league call up.

and now for your thoughts………..

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Chet West is an IT professional living in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters. He has a pug named Banks and loves photography. Follow him on Twitter @chetwest19