Kap's Corner

It's Time to Make Some Changes

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Kevin Gregg had a rough weekend serving up home runs to his former team, the Florida Marlins and costing the Cubs a big win and a return to first place.

Many times when a baseball team struggles you hear the expression, "relax it's early" or "it's a marathon not a sprint" but after the all star break it is no longer early and with just 59 games remaining it is indeed a sprint.

This weekend was a lost one for the Chicago Cubs as they dropped two of three games to the Florida Marlins and could have very easily been swept. They also could have won two of three just as easily if their bullpen didn't put up a couple of horrific performances.

Friday evening the Cubs received a solid start from Rich Harden only to see the bullpen implode in the 8th inning with Carlos Marmol starting the inning off by walking the first two hitters and then hitting a man. He nearly escaped any damage by getting the next two men before giving up a game winning single. Sean Marshall then entered and allowed a double to Wes Helms that plated two more and the Cubs lost 5-2.

Then Saturday night the Cubs had to go to the pen early due to a back injury to Carlos Zambrano who lasted just three innings but departed with a 6-0 lead. The Cubs then stopped scoring after the 2nd inning while the Marlins chipped away and eventually drew within a run at 6-5 entering the ninth inning. The Cubs added two more to take an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth but closer Kevin Gregg couldn't hold the lead and Florida tied it with two outs.  A D-Lee HR to left in the 10th won it for the Cubs but a look at the numbers from the evening are a little disconcerting. The Cubs walked 9 batters, struck out 14 times, and stranded 14 base runners. Those are not the numbers a team with post season aspirations should have. It can happen once in a while but the Cubs offense has been too hot and cold all season long.

Then on Sunday the Cubs suffered one of their worst losses of the season. They had a 1-0 lead in the 7th when Aaron Heilman who sends Cubs fans scurrying for the Maalox every time he pitches gave up a game tying home run to dead center field in a huge park to pitch in, to Cody Ross. Jake Fox gave the Cubs the lead back in the top of the 9th and then Gregg came in to close it down again.

Once again he couldn't get the job done as he surrendered back to back home runs to Dan Uggla (who's moon shot to left may be orbiting the earth by now) and then the 2nd of the game to Ross whose blast won the game. Here is my problem with Sunday's loss. Why was Gregg even in the game? He threw 38 pitches on Saturday night and looked awful.

If this team has hopes of going to the playoffs and contending once they get there I do not believe they can keep Gregg as their closer. He is not an overpowering pitcher and he has a penchant for the long ball that is often fatal because when he pitches the game is almost always on the line. He has surrendered 10 HR's in the closer's role which is the most in baseball by any closer in the Top 15 in saves by a wide margin.

I have long thought that Carlos Marmol is the future closer of the Cubs but his lack of control cannot be trusted in such a high pressure situation as the ninth inning. So what should the Cubs do? Many of you have e-mailed me saying that the Cubs should have traded for a closer at the trade deadline. That simply was not going to happen for a couple of reasons. One, there were no closers traded at the deadline. Two, the Cubs could not take on a large contract with their ownership situation still unsettled.

So who do I give the job to? I would give Angel Guzman an opportunity to win the job. He has electric stuff and a look at his recent performances shows an ability to get the job done without walking a lot of batters. Since returning from the DL on July 7th Guzman has made 13 appearances and he has allowed just 3 runs. He has 36 strikeouts in 45 innings this season and he seems to thrive on pitching in high pressure situations.

I believe that the Cubs have to start to look at who is performing when it comes to making out the lineup card. Instead of just automatically playing the guys making the big money give the players who are performing more chances to play. Can someone honestly tell me that Jake Fox doesn't deserve to be in the lineup almost everyday? On a team starved for consistent offense here is a guy who just shows up and plays hard everyday and delivers big time offensive production. Many times his big hits come in key situations and drive in big runs that help the team win.

Do you realize that Jake Fox has played in 44 LESS games than Milton Bradley and he has more RBI's, the same number of HR's, and he is hitting 50 points higher? Compare Fox to Kosuke Fukudome and you will find a guy hitting 38 points higher with more HR's and just 8 less RBI's in 51 LESS games. Fox just plays hard wherever you put him. His bat needs to be in the lineup. Give him the opportunities to play and see if he can indeed hit in the big leagues on a regular basis.

The Cubs have to be in the "earn it" business not the "my salary means I should play" business. Kevin Gregg has not earned the closer's job. He was simply given the opportunity to try to keep it and he has not proven to be worthy of holding such an important position on a team with championship hopes. There are 59 games left in the regular season and the Cubs need to ask themselves this question on EVERY decision that they are faced with the rest of the way: Does the person that we are playing give us the best possible chance to win the game that we are playing. Period, end of story.

I really don't care to hear about lefty/righty matchups as much as we do. That stuff is vastly overrated in most situations. Both home runs that Kevin Gregg surrendered in the 9th inning yesterday were to right handed hitters. The home run that Aaron Heilman gave up to tie the game in the 7th inning was also to a right handed hitter.

In addition, if the game is close and the Cubs are leading in the 9th please put someone in for Alfonso Soriano defensively. I know that he has been hitting better as of late but if you have the lead in the 9th you need to have your best defenders on the field to give yourself the best chance to win. Don't worry about hurting someone's feelings or having a player feel disrespected. When you make 18 million dollars  a year that paycheck should be all the respect that you need.

Just play the players that have earned the right to be in the lineup. Nothing more and nothing less.

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11 Comments

--MGb said:

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George Sherril was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline. I believe he has 8 mil left on a contract, so that goes to the shaky ownership situation, but IIRC correct, Crane Kenney said back in the winter - there'd be room for moves in July. How about that.

Marmol lost his closer job to Randy and his Dutch friends back in March. GRegg has officially caught up to Wood in the Blown Saves Department, but his name STILL isn't Wood, so he doesn't get that much latitude. Guzman has been slightly, slightly more consistent than Gregg, but has shown moments of extreme suckitude himself. Is he the best option? Maybe. But like the NL Central, the best piece of garbage, is still a piece of garbage.

Bottom line - there is NO closer candidate in the bullpen right now. I have to give Gregg exactly one more opportunity to get/blow a save. I wonder if the Pirates could be persuaded to part with Matt Capps. IIRC, he's been doing a pretty good job closing for them. But then Gregg was closing for the Marlins last year. There's saves, and then there's MEANINGFUL saves.

cubfan2323 said:

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Our bullpen WILL be the downfall of this team. Aaron Heilman scares me to death, Marmol can't throw a strike, Gregg consistently grooves 89 MPH fastballs with 1 run leads....maybe we should give Guzman a chance.

Who cares that he has no experience. What matters is that he executes pitches. Give it a shot for 4-5 games. Who, however, will then take his old role?

Bad Kermit said:

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12-5 since the All-Star Break. Yeah, they're really struggling right now.

tom said:

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I agree kap Why not try out Guzman,he at least throws strikes.Piniella has a 1 track mind 8th inning he automatically goes to Marmol even if Guzman was unhittable in the 7th.Same thing in the 9th automatically he goes to Gregg.Whoever is doing the job should play I agree with you

Jerry said:

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Guzman needs to get a shot at it. He has done really well in his current role and can get the ball up there at 97mph which is faster than Gregg could dream of. Fox needs to be playing more as well. He needs to play everyday somewhere. Give Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, and soto/Hill a day off once a week and start him. Fox's bat is too good to keep on the bench.

Kurt Evans said:

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Sir, from the start of May until the end of July, Gregg had an ERA of 2.79 in 38.2 innings of work, with 20 saves in 22 attempts (that's better than 90%).

Then he gets eaten up by the Marlins and, the day after tossing close to 40 pitches, he gets trotted back out there and unsurprisingly gets eaten up again. And for that, you're calling for his head? Seriously?

I understand your frustration at his inability to will his arm into pitching shape that second game against the Marlins, but if we call for new closers any time the team's current 9th inning guy blows 2 in a row then it'll be a revolving door out there all season long.

Therefore I'd like to suggest a bit of perspective before climbing back onto your reactionary, nonsensical anti-Gregg horse. He is without a doubt the best closer the Cubs have. And since the Cubs are now 14-5 since the break, calling for a bullpen shake-up falls into the category of the absurd.

IrishYeti said:

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Guzman sure did look like a great closer tonight, didn't he?

*dan bradley said:

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Rich Harden should be the closer. Woody should be brought back to set him up. Then you can let him go chase big contracts after this year.

*dan bradley said:

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Kurt - from may to april huh? you can look at any little window to get the stats you want. He was 20 out of 22 because he usually comes in up by three and gives up two. He's not a good pitcher. Period. And no.. he's not the best they have: Dempster was better.

tom said:

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Dempster was better? Dempster was terrible as a closer Dempster created his own jams just like Marmol does Gregg is bad too.It seems like all these guys come in and walk the 1st guy then the problems start.Lou should pull them as soon as they walk that 1st batter maybe then they'll get the idea they have to throw strikes and not try to be so cute with their pitches

Sammie said:

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7 total posts...wow.

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