Smile Politely

The Pen Looks Good On Paper

Last week I mentioned that I thought the bullpen would be a strength for this team. Barring injuries (which have already plagued the Cubs’ position players this spring), it should be. In 2007, the Cubs bullpen was seventh in all of baseball with a 3.76 ERA. Looking at the cast of characters for 2008, there shouldn’t be much change and there is talent to move forward.

Let’s take a closer look at who I like and who I don’t like warming up along the left field box seats.

Who I like:

Carlos Marmol: This kid has the best stuff on the staff hands down. His two-seamer has tons of movement and his slider, when thrown low in the zone, is practically unhittable. More importantly, he can pound the strike zone with both of them. 3 to 1 K to BB ratio and nearly 1.4 K’s per inning? Good Lord. I’m a fan. A little known fact about Marmol is that he was a light hitting catcher prospect in the system for his first three years. Converting him to a pitcher, good move. The best part about this is that his young arm doesn’t have a ton of minor league pitching miles on it. If he can remain durable, he can give the Cubs 10 more wins per year. He was last year’s MVP. I expect more of the same and then some.

Michael Wuertz: Michael Wuertz will not be featured next to Derek Jeter on the cover of GQ, but the guy is a workhorse. He has one pitch, but it’s nasty enough, and you simply can’t argue with numbers. Wuertz has posted ERA’s of 3.81, 2.66, and 3.48 in the past three seasons, each year posting more than 1 K per inning (or 9.83 K/9 inn). A few too many walks, but for a guy consistently making around $1 mil per year, in this era of diluted bullpens, he’s a steal.

Kerry Wood: Any Cubs fan in the world loves Woody for numerous reasons. For his 20K game. For his run to the ’03 playoffs. For his willingness to take way less money to stay with the Cubs through the injuries. For his selfless attitude about moving to the bullpen. You just want to see him succeed. Truth is though, Kerry is in much the same position as he was when he came up. When you find yourself reading about Wood, you still actually find them referring to potential. Now, this is rare for a 30 year old reliever, especially one with close to ten years of MLB service time, but it really is the most accurate way observers can write about him. His stats are good, but not off the charts in most categories. Yet, you talk to hitters and to this day they’ll tell you that his fastball is one of the “heaviest” and hardest to hit in baseball. Kid K has his fastball back; he’s had it for close to nine months now. It seems as if keeping him in the bullpen is the only way to make his potentially golden arm hold up. We’ll see. We’re going to need him in the 7th and 8th this year.

Bob Howry: You know what you’re getting with this thrower. Here goes: Robert Howry. Age 34. 220 lbs. Consummate frowner. Great sinking fastball equals prolonged success at the major league level. It’s his only pitch. Starts slow in April and May, but is much better as the season progresses. Will probably finish the season with ERA around 3.30. Will not talk much. Will save 5-10 games when primary closer is tired or injured. May flash brief smile immediately after completion of a save; viewer will likely have to use DVR in slo-mo to capture this moment.

Kevin Hart: On December 7, 2006, Hart was acquired by the Chicago Cubs as the player to be named later in a trade that had sent Freddie Bynum to Baltimore. Still think Hendry’s not doing his homework? Dusty Baker liked Bynum and played him more than Ryan Theriot. Enough said. Hart looks a lot like a young Howry to me. Good sinking fastball, throws strikes, gets you in and out of an inning. Exactly what the nervous Cubs fans want. He should make the cut.

Additional: Any Lefty who isn’t Scott Eyre or Neal Cotts.

Who I do NOT like:

Jon Lieber: Probably odd man out in the rotation. I guess he’ll be a decent long man. Ho-hum.

Jose Ascanio: He was acquired from the Braves for Ohman and Omar Infante. This hard throwing righty looks overrated to me. I personally wish that Hendry would stop dealing with the Braves. Any pitcher the Braves trade isn’t worth it; they can evaluate arms better than all 29 other teams. If they’re trading him, then he doesn’t have it.

Jose Ceda: Acquired for Todd Walker two years ago. Throws 100 MPH, but can’t get the ball over the plate consistently. If he does, he’ll be a force. I hope he can, but honestly, I don’t think he will.

Neal Cotts: Is someone in the Cubs’ front office related to this guy? He hasn’t had one good outing since 2005. Are we that desperate for a lefty?

Scott Eyre: Scott Eyre is right up there with Dempster, Theriot and Lee as the class of the ballclub. He’s a good guy. But he’s clearly out of gas. Before last year’s meltdown, from ‘03–’06, he appeared in 74, 83, 86 and 74 games. It’s worn his arm down. Please don’t tell me that because he had a good second half ERA last year that he’ll bounce back. Anybody watching him saw how hard he was hit. I hope he can be the old Eyre, but we can’t count on it. So, I ask the Cubs to look at some of their young lefties instead: Sean Marshall, if he doesn’t make the rotation, why not? And I like what I’ve seen from Carmen Pignatiello (great name) and Geoffrey Jones.

Others who aren’t quite ready yet:

Tim Lahey (Rule 5 pick not showing enough to stick with the club)

Juan Mateo (Good arm, but, done being injured?)

Angel Guzman (Great arm, but, done being injured?)

Billy Petrick (Local product needs a better second pitch)

Jeff Samardzija (Cubs would like Former ND WR standout to be a starter, and has potential to be a good one)

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