Wednesday, December 15, 2004

posted by James - 9:12 AM

Yeah, Skippy... everyone except mine!

Do you think maybe we got a little jipped on that one? j/k David. We all know Uncle Greg sure didn't mind.

Maybe we should get together and head out to the casino again when I'm back there in January. I've heard they've done some interesting improvements out there.

Now on to the Cubbies...

The whole of the Cubs Blog Army is aflutter with the latest news that the Cubs missed out on Danny Kolb, with the Brewers sending him to the Braves for Jose Capellan, their best pitching prospect (a price I would not have wanted Master Hendry to pay).

Kolb had a pretty good last year, and I enjoyed having him on my fantasy teams, but as a closer he's overrated.

His strikeout rates are horrible. For one season, he proved he could get guys out, which is the most important thing. But it would be easier to project whether he was worth the risk, if he could do more than just get a lot of ground balls and not walk guys.

Now the Cubs have guys with great K-rates (Kyle Farnsworth anyone?) who haven't been as successful in a closer's role as Kolb, but it's not like he's had a great track record of success (just a year and a half since failing as a starter), and if Master Hendry was going to pay a premium price for a closer, it had better be a sure thing.

I thought the same thing when Armando Benitez, Troy Percival and Dustin Hermanson signed elsewhere as a free agent... too much money, not a sure thing.

Then came the ridiculous notion of putting Kerry Wood in the bullpen. This is such a stupid thing to even consider.

You don't have even the slightest need for a closer, if you can't get through the seventh or eighth inning. Now, I'll make a possibly-hypocritical argument about Ryan Dempster later, but relegating Kerry Wood to one or two innings, three times per week won't remove the problems he has as a starter (they in fact intensify them if his first-inning stats have any bearing).

While Kerry might not be Roger Clemens yet, I'm not about to trade seven innings of possible domination for six innings of possible insignificance.

Kerry Wood is what separates the Cubs from the rest of the potential National League contenders. Well, he and Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano. At the top of their game, any one of them would make any team a force in the playoffs... and the Cubs have three of them.

They're what allows the Cubs to kick Matt Clement to the curb and allocate his money to a push for Carlos Beltran, or another top offensive talent.

Now that's out of the way, let's look at the rest of the bullpen to date:
Leicester rhp
Wellemeyer rhp
Remlinger lhp
Farnsworth rhp
Dempster rhp
Hawkins rhp
Borowski rhp

Other candidates:
Wuertz rhp
Mitre rhp
Guzman rhp
Ohman lhp
Rohlicek lhp
It's possible Joe Borowski won't be a factor right away, Farnsworth will be in someone else's bullpen next season, and Master Hendry will keep Jon Leicester or Todd Wellemeyer on the big-league staff, but not both. I mention these possibilities, because the Cubs will be short one lefthander and the early returns on Will Ohman and Russ Rohlicek are encouraging, not to mention the one lefthander in the above scenario, Mike Remlinger, isn't the model of a left-handed neutralizer.

As much as I like both Leicester and Wellemeyer, it would be worth carrying a second lefthander, who can hold left-handed batters to a .200 batting average and keep them inside the park, to give Remlinger a chance to work more of a traditional set-up role in the sixth and seventh innings.

This would leave the seventh and eighth to Farnsworth and eighth and ninth to LaTroy Hawkins and Ryan Dempster.

I'm encouraged about the possibility of using Dempster in short, high-leverage innings (instead of as a long-relief pitcher, where the Cubs have plenty of candidates).

There will be absolutely no ambiguity this spring, Dempster is needed for no other role, so he can prepare as such.

And if Rothschild is any kind of pitching coach, he will get Dempster to work on that craft, such as honing the two, or three at most, pitches he'll use the most. I would hope these would be the pitches he has the highest "strikeout ability" with and also the most control. I assume he'd go with his fastball and slider, which, by all accounts, are his two above-average pitches.

If this bears results, then it's possible he could elevate to the closer's role, and allow Hawkins to concentrate on the eighth inning, where he has a track record of dominance.

On first thought, the issue of Dempster's ability to pitch three or four times per week scared me. But if Borowski and Farnsworth come back to this team with effectiveness, the Cubs would have up to four guys to utilize in the eighth or ninth innings, with Remlinger, Leicester, and Wellemeyer available in the middle.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better stocked bullpen, even if Master Hendry doesn't make any further additions.

And let's all rejoice, because at least our bullpen isn't so bad we had to go out and sign Esteban Yan to a two-year contract.

Although I wish he would have made an acquisition last year after Borowski couldn't maintain his 2003 performance, Master Hendry has allocated his bullpen resources wisely so far, and I'll assume he'll continue to do so.

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