View From The Bleachers

March 9, 2011

Chet’s Corner: Was it relief or was it the runs?

Filed under: Featured,General — Chet West @ 5:00 am

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

  • Buddy

    I’d be shocked if Cashner didn’t make the team. If Coleman and Diamond make the team, I may have to poke my eyes out.

  • Chuck

    I generally agree with the 4 run rule. I think you go with 4 runs for the pitcher because 4 runs or less over 6 innings is the definition of a quality start.
    The Cubs scored 4.23 runs per game and the pitchers gave up 4.73. Those rank 10th and 13th respectively. So the pitching was worse than the offense on a per game and peer ranking basis.
    The starters gave up 440 of those runs for a 2.97 runs per game average and a 3.93 ERA. Not to shabby.
    The “core” relievers of Marmoll, Marshall, Cashner and Coleman were very good as well. The problem were the other guys. Some of them (Diamond, Grabow, Howry, Shark, Berg) were downright awful. An ERA+ of 65 or below is just bad.

  • Chuck

    Correction: 3 runs or less over 6 innings is a quality start. It equates to a 4.5 ERA or less.

  • Doc Raker

    I blame my ancestors for immigrating, legally, from Italy to Chicago in the early 1900’s. Papa saw some World Chamionships with the Cubs and probably thought he was in a dynasty city. 110 years later we know better but the damage is done, I was born into a Cub family. My grandparents brought me to my first game and my dad continued to take us while we were growing up. Cubdom is in my blood, I blame my family.

  • Doc Raker

    I was very frustrated last year with the poor offense from the middle of our line up, Lee and Aram killed us, we didn’t start scoring until Aram started hitting and Lee was traded which by then the season was lost. I fear 2011 will be similar only with Pena playing the roll of Lee bringing in his .196 avg into the middle of our line up. Spare me the OPS mumbo jumbo with Pena, .196 is a .196. I hope Quade doesn’t hit Pena any higher than 6.

  • chet

    It’s all about assigning blame Doc. Accountability damn it!

  • Chuck

    Doc: I repectfully disagree. Pena should hit 3rd or 4th. His high OBP means he will get on base a lot and his high K rate means he will not hit into many double plays. It may be frustrating to watch, but it will get results.
    According to the numbers, the Cubs neither hit or pitched well last year. I blame the bullpen.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    Old grump Lou didn’t care and just played unproductive veterans over developing talent. That really killed us.

  • http://van Buddy

    Other than Marshall and Marmol, the bullpen was truly awful and a big reason the Cubs had a team ERA of 4.24.

  • Larry Sproul

    That was one of the major problems with Lou . He ran out the same team most days . He did not want to babysit for the rookies and made that very clear .
    Looking ahead Pena has to get swinging the bat better. Same goes for Hill . Run support hurt the 2010 team this has to change.

    Quade has to fix the bullpen now . At times in 2010 it hurt me to watch them . Lou looked confused and Larry looked like he saw the ghost of Rod Beck .

  • http://swantron.com jswanson

    As I see it, Woody takes the 4-out save out of the picture. I have faith in both Marshall and Wood to come in with ducks on the pond and get outs. The key for the Cubs this year will be the same as every other team in the bigs: get quality starts. It would be crazy talk to think that seeing Grabow in the 4th is going to result in a W. As far as run production, it can’t be worse than last year. Pena is a downgrade from Lee…I have yet to be convinced otherwise. Even if he walks every AB, he isn’t scoring on a double. After listening to the game yesterday, it would be nice to have someone like Perez on the squad. I can’t remember the last time we had someone draw attention from the pitcher like that…maybe Juan Pierre? I wish someone would show Kosuke how to swipe second.

  • Deezer

    I think it’s a mixture of things: the bullpen early on in the season and the lack of run support later. While I’m not denying there were some stinkers throughout last year (Berg, Howry, Grabow, Caridad [who gets an incomplete since he was hurt], etc.), the bullpen was absolutely lights-out at the end of the season, going (I believe) 27 innings or so without a run charged against them, and only a few runs unearned or that got charged to starters. And that wasn’t just because they’d have Marshall, Cashner, and Marmol close everything. Mateo, Diamond, and some of the other young guys were coming in and finishing things too, and doing a pretty good job at it. The times they lost during that stretch was generally because no one was hitting, or the starter got screwed.

    Granted, we’re only a week into Spring Training (more or less), but our core group of relievers – Wood, Marshall, Marmol, and Cashner to an extent – are looking good. Big Z, Dempster, Wells and the most recent outing by Garza have been looking good (not spectacular in most cases, but good).

    Yes, the bullpen (except for Marmol and Marshall) blew at the beginning of the season, they can get the blame for that. After the all star break, though? Blame the offense, in my opinion

  • Randy

    My concern this year is that our “quality” guys in the bullpen will get overused. Marshall last year was a workhorse and I was really worried towards the end of the season that he was asked to take on too much and may have had some arm fatigue. I think Sweet Lou felt trapped so he kept running out Grab-NOOOO and sometimes the kids to eat up innings. To be honest this wasn’t all that often considering we were leading or tied for the league lead in quality starts until around the All-Star Break. I think what hurt us most was not having a proven, RH 6-7-8 inning guy last year that could throw strikes. With Wood and Cashner in there this year I think our bullpen is going to be much more balanced and a lot of more effective.

  • http://twitter.com/vftb Joe Aiello

    I’ve been looking at Caridad and Marcos Mateo. I like his makeup, but then again, I tend to gravitate to fat pitchers not named Zambrano.

  • Chuck

    Your bullpen, generally, does not get shelled in the 8th or 9th inning because that is where your best pen arms reside. It is when your starter gets pulled in the 5th or 6th that the damage will be done. You have your fringe MLB pitchers doing innings 5 and 6 because they have to pitch sometimes.
    This is why having hitters like Pena is important. He sees a lot of pitches and gets pitchers into high pitch counts earlier in the game. This leads to seeing the underbelly of the bullpen. This is where you can do damage.
    “toast”

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    @Swanson – Teaching Fukudome to swipe second requires him to get on first. You can’t steal 1B
    “connect”

  • http://swantron.com jswanson

    @BLC…you can wave your purse at a 55 foot breaking ball and swipe first. Kosuke has the first portion of that scenario down.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    @Chuck – I agree. This is why I wish we had Adam Dunn on the team. He is always among the league leaders in pitches per plate appearance. Walks help a lot more than graduates of the Dusty Baker school of hitting believe. They run up the pitch counts, which force managers to make a “move” (my spam word) to the pen earlier and more often than they would like, it cycles through the order, which increases the likelihood of your best hitters coming to the plate in crunch time, and it opens up holes on the field because the defense has to hold on the runners.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    Ok, well then, they should be working on him beating out those dropped 3rd strikes

  • Randy

    @Buckeye – Fukudome had a .371 OBP last year, and a .375 the year before. Those are in the Top 15 or so for the National League. He gets on base plenty, he just needs better judgment on which pitches to run on and more importantly the greenlight to run.

  • Chet

    Fuke’s OBP was second best on the team last year.

  • Doc Raker

    Chuck: I hope you are right but I just don’t understand how a guy hitting .196 can be helpful in the middle of the line up. When does a .196 hitter get his hits, in clutch situations or when the opposing pitcher is up by 4 runs and grooving fastballs? The middle of the line up needs to slug when it counts and I just don’t see Pena doing that. Hopefully, I am wrong- it has happened once before. No, maybe twice counting that time back in 1978, oops that might make three since I said once and it was twice…………….

  • Doc Raker

    Chet- I guess once I was confirmed as an adult I can’t blame my family any longer. I have to accept my choice as a Cub fan, my confirmation sponsor never explained it in those terms. So now I wonder if I am sinning to pass on my Cubdom to my children.

  • chet

    Doc, it is only a sin if the Cubs don’t win a World Series in your kids lifetime…….

  • Mr. David M. Beyer

    Doc, if he’s drawing walks and hitting with power he can still be productive. If he can put up an OBP somewhere around league average (.335-.340), and slug near .500, I don’t care if he hits .150. The most important thing an offensive player can do is not make outs. He can draw enough walks (and has throughout his career) to overcome his vomitous BA.

  • Mitchener

    My rule is 3runs allowed from the starter and 1-2 run from the bullpen. That would be about a 4.5 ERA for 6 Innings and 3 to 4.5 ERA for 3 to 4 innings for the Bullpen. I think Wood, Marshall, Marmol will be good 7-9 and Cashner will be good to take over for Marshall and Wood. I feel like we need one more solid pitcher. Maybe Guzman can comeback later in the season or Caridad/Maine/Russel could step up. Grabow and Smardijiza will be good for mop up duty. I believe if we have another pen guy step up the pitching staff could keep us in the division race.

  • http://swantron.com jswanson

    Oh snap… just noticed that Chet slipped in a little double entendre on us in the title of this post. Well played, sir.

  • Doc Raker

    Marlon Byrd, Aram and Tyler Colvin all deserve to hit higher than Carlos Pena. With Fuk and Castro in the 1 and 2 spot how can you hit Pena 3 or 4. You can even argue Sorryano should hit in front of Pena. Colvin has a better BA, similar OBP, better slugging percentage by 100 points and a better OPS. Hitting Pena 3 or 4 is a poor line up.

  • Doc Raker

    @MR Beyer- Pena slugged .407 last year, he has only slugged over .500 twice in his 10 year career and has been in decline for the past 3 seasons. What brings you to believe Pena will slug at least .500 in 2011? Just hopeful? The statistical trend says he won’t slug over .500. Why are so many so confident in a guy who has shown serious decline in recent years and doesn’t even have the slugging numbers people are hoping for? Hit Pena 3 or 4 and the Cubs will struggle to score runs. You can take that to the bank.

  • Doc Raker

    Geo deserves to hit in front of Pena also, so the only guy who should’t hit in front of Pena is DeWitt. Pena should hit 7th in front of DeWitt.

  • Chuck

    Re Pena doubters: The biggest development that I will be look for this season is if Quade will platoon guys who have extreme splits. I hope that Pena never sees the light of day against LHP. Here is why:
    vs RHP: 0.239/0.370/0.522 AVG/OBP/SLG
    vs LHP: 0.194/0.299/0.397 AVG/OBP/SLG
    I can’t see how you don’t think that his numbers against RHP aren’t worthy of a middle of the order spot in the lineup.

  • Chuck

    That is his 3-year compiled stats.

  • Chet

    Good eye jswanson, Good eye!

  • Doc Raker

    With those splits I can see him plugging into the middle of the order vs righties but if Quade just runs him out there everyday and leaves him in against LHP relievers late in the game which Pena is sure to see it will be very frustrating. Late inning AB’s in tight ballgames vs lefties could kill us if Pena is in the middle of the line up and we have no right handed slugger to insert. You think Quade would start an OF of Colvin, Byrd and Fuk vs righties and then pinch hit Sorryano for Pena vs a lefty late in the game?

  • Chuck

    Doc: I have a hard time believing that the Cubs have the stones to admit that the last couple of years of the Soriano contract is probably a sunk cost and starts platooning him. He is due to be paid a LOT of money and I would think that they will try to extract some value from that. I do think that Soriano should start vs any and all LHP because he just crushes them. He may see a lot of “keeping him healthy” days off that just happen to come against RHP.
    Baker should be ready to go any time that a lefty is going against Pena. He has hit 0.316/0.362/0.545 in 301 ABs against LHP over the last three years. Almost identical numbers to what Pena has done vs RHP.
    I have never understood why managers don’t use platoon splits to give the team the best chance to win. It makes no sense to trot out the same lineup day in and day out when it is clearly costing the team wins.
    “broad”

  • mastrick

    Samardzija should be traded to the Bears – his straightball doesn’t fool anybody.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    Wouldn’t be a bad idea. He ain’t too good at football either, and I would get to enjoy seeing him get leveled by AJ Hawk and Clay Matthews.

  • Doc Raker

    Chuck- I agree that Quade won’t platoon Sorryano. Who is going to pinch hit for Pena in the 7th inning of a close game when the they throw a lefty at him? That is the real question. With Pena’s extreme righty lefty split he will easily be neutralized by the opposition in close games. $10M for a guy who is so easily neutralized, bad deal.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    But 5M of it was deferred.

  • Doc Raker

    @buckeyelakercub- please come into my office for an eye exam and some glasses. I will hand you a bill for a pair of $1500 glasses and tell you, “don’t worry Buckeyelakercub, you can defer $750 of the cost until next year.” At that point how much will the glasses cost you? a) $750 b) $1500- What does deferring any costs have to do with the value of the product? Over priced is over priced regardless of when you pay for it. Take some advice, don’t shop for large purchases alone BuckeyeLakerCub, you are an easy target. Also, what is so great about paying a guy $5M after he is gone?

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    You missed the intended sarcasm. I should have put an ! In my post. I think it’s a horrible deal. And I don’t need a pair of 1500 dollar glasses. Just got me a 500 dollar pair that my parents only pay 150 thanks to insurance.

  • Doc Raker

    Insurance is good, everyone should use their benefits. I you don’t, you lose them. Missed the sarcasm, good, I was worried about you. I had visions of you buying a $15,000 Honda for $32,500 because the made your payments for really low for 18 years.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    It’s always a good thing to use it up. But don’t be like Homer Simpson and try to deliberately get hit by a car in Canada because they have universal health care.

  • Mitchener

    The Pena hate is ridiculous. Ya he batted below .200 but he had horrible luck and a bad foot. Hes also coming from one of the best pitcher parks to a hitter friendly park. Hes not gonna hit for avg but he draws around 90 walks a year and will slug around .490-.530. If he provides solid defense and has a ops around .830 then the 10 million wont be so bad.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/pena-the-cubbie/

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but Adam Dunn would have been a better option than Pena

  • Doc Raker

    Hendry missed the boat on Adrian Gonzales. I would of traded all of those minor leaguers listed in the minor league report and paid him $20M per. AG is a Pujols type of monster from the left side of the plate. He is the one FA I think is worth paying big dollars to. I know Hendry made an offer for AG but apparently not good enough. The phone call should of went like this, “Hello Padres, what do you want for AG?” Padres, “blah blah blah your first born and your wife every Wednesday night”. Hendry, “done, send him over”.

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