About that Cubs Closer Battle

I recently purchased a copy of the Bill James Handbook 2009...I know, a little late to the party...but it does a great job of presenting information that isn't readily available, information I'll pass along as they become relevant throughout the season. I'm also going to get a subscription to BillJames.net to update everyone as the season progresses.

But thumbing through the book they have all kinds of stats on relievers and let's see if any of it will help Lou pick his closer on the year.

James has a piece on the "21st Century Bullpen" and goes on about how the modern day bullpen has changed drastically over the last 10 years or so and in a very Jamesian way, goes about reclassifying it and includes 21 categories in total ranging from easy to tough saves, clean outings and so forth. I'm not going to republish all his work, but here's some of the relevant ones. Of course, I'm going to have to explain some of these first.

Consecutive Days - A count of how many times a pitcher has thrown on back-to-back days or games in the rare case of a double-header.

Long Outings - Outings of 25 or more pitches

Leverage Index -A metric developed by Tangotiger to account for the game situation. 1.00 is average.

Easy Saves - Saves where the first batter a reliever faces does not represent the tying or winning run and there are three outs or less remaining; 58% of all saves are easy and relievers come through on 87% of them.

Regular Saves - not an easy or tough save; 37% of all saves are regular saves and they are converted 57% of the time

Tough Saves - reliever enters with the potential tying or winning run on base; 5% of all saves are tough saves and they're converted 22% of the time. For the three save types, you'll see something like 15-17 which means 15 converted saves of that type in 17 of those opportunities.

Clean Outing - a game in which the reliever is not charged with a run and does not allow an inherited runner to score.

Save/Hold Percentage - We're use to seeing save percentage but it discriminates against anyone that isn't a closer since they rarely get saves to boost that percentage. So instead James adds up holds and save.

Player Cons
Long 
Leverage
IR % Easy
Reg
Tough
Games Clean
Sv/Hld Pct
Opp OPS
Gregg 20 13  2.1 .07 15-17 10-16 4-5 72 54 .79 .585
Marmol 27 17  1.5 .21 4-5 2-3 1-1 82 59 .95 .508
Wood 19 11  2.0 .17 21-24 13-16 0-0 65 50 .85 .632

 

So I was probably a bit overly critical on Kevin Gregg when the Cubs acquired him as the Marlins certainly put his feet to the fire a lot more than Lou did with Kerry. Gregg did tie for the league lead in blown saves with 9(with Manny Corpas), but he also tied for the league lead in tough saves with 4 (with Brian Wilson). Kerry had the 5th highest NL total in Easy Saves and 4th in regular saves (Gregg was 7th in regular saves). Also, Gregg came in with 15 runners on base, allowing just one of them to score all year, while Wood entered a game with just 12 inherited runners, allowing 2 of them to score.

Kerry did have a pretty unfortunate run of bad luck when you look at that above link and his BABIP numbers, so I still have little doubt that he'll be a better pitcher than Gregg this year (enters keyboard shortcut for "if healthy). But no reason to keep revisiting that argument as Wood is a Cleveland Indian and it's Kevin Gregg versus Carlos Marmol for the closer job.

In terms of their rank among other pitchers, Marmol's 27 outings on consecutive days was the tied for the fifth most in the majors and of course he led the NL with 30 Holds (second to Scott Shields in the majors with 31). Marmol actually dominates most of the NL leaderboards in the book.

10th in Inherited Runners Scored % with a minimum of 30 IR - 21.3% (Cotts was 9th, Eyre was 6th and Ohman 2nd for what it's worth)

3rd in Relief Opponent OBP - .251

1st in Relief Opponent SLG - .257 (Gregg was third at .271)

10th in Relief Opponent BA versus lefties - .182

1st in Relief Opponent BA versus righties and overall - .098 and .135

1st in Relief OBP 1st Batter Faced - .185

1st in Relief Opponent BA w/ Runners On - .148

2nd in Relief Opponent BA w/ RISP - .133

1st in Strikeout/Hit Ratio - 2.85 (Harden was 2nd with 2.28)

1st in Opponent OPS vs Slider - .302 

So what does this all mean? Well I think Carlos Marmol is kind of good at pitching...can we all agree on that? As for who should be the closer, I don't think the Cubs can go wrong on this decision. Lou isn't going to let the front office dictate his decision, but from a payroll standpoint, letting Gregg close will keep Marmol's arbitration dollars down a little longer and make Gregg more attractive if he becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the Cubs could get two draft picks assuming he's a Type A free agent. Pitchers, managers and fans generally like the defined roles in the bullpen and I don't think there's any doubt that you'd rather have Marmol coming in to escape those 7th and 8th innning jams over Gregg. If you give Marmol the closer job, Lou will hesitate on using him before the 9th and that's probably not the best use of such a dynamic pitcher. Ideally, the two players wouldn't care what innings they pitched and Lou would bring in Marmol in the toughest of situations whether it's the 7th, 8th or 9th. But that's not the reality of today's game so I'll be hoping that announcement from Lou later this week will be that Kevin Gregg is the 2009 closer.

Comments

THT's 5 Questions about the Cubs, some weirdness about Lilly having a career year in 2008, apparently 2007 didn't happen.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/cubs-fiv...

Viva El Birdos preview

http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2009/3/26/810729/cubs-...

claimed off waivers by the Indians...

The Injuns are becoming the new Orioles with their ex-Cubs.

cubs pre-season baseball on MLB Network at 10:30 eastern.

This is useful. I was definitely leaning toward Marmol but I guess we could give Gregg a try. I was thinking that Gregg would be a good set-up man but if Marmol can more outs and be more durable in the setup role that is Ok.

An argument for Gregg as set up man: He'll probably get used more. If one of their arms gets blown out, I'd rather it not be Marmol's, who would presumably get into fewer games as a closer than as a set up man. Lou brought in Marmol whenever he badly needed an out late in the game. If he does that again this year I smell injury or wear out. That said, it's not a huge issue for me. They both seem like they'll get the job done.

lou brought marmol in almost any time he felt like it no matter the lead or protection. he worked 1/2 the games last year.

the last few weeks before eyre was shipped off marmol was warmed with eyre many times and marmol came in anyway...even in a couple games the cubs had in hand. marmol's use in august was just plain weird, imo.

Speaking of Scott Eyre...

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/p...

season tickets are down close to 50% already, if they don't get off to a hot start or walk-up ticket sales are way down, they may need to start shedding contracts.

they'll probably be a few of those stories as the year goes on...

im still amazed how big their payroll is for a mid-market team.

Either's a good choice, but the closer role is so defined, that I'd rather have Gregg there. Marmol's the more talented pitcher and he can be brought in when he's really needed.

I don't think it's always about who is the better pitcher. I like Marmol setting up Gregg knowing that Marmol is probably the better pitcher.

sori, font, lee, bradley, rami, Johnson, soto, riot, marshall.

Zito starting for the Giants I believe...

nice! a lineup worth watching.

Parachat?

always open...doubtful I'll be there myself though.

I'm off tomorrow.

I'll be there at some point.

staying back in Mesa tonight, will start tomorrow says Miles

cubs.com says Fukudome is starting. Let me guess who's not right.

Good call.

Since I have to get up for work at 4 AM, I say boo on 9:30 start times. I'll probably catch a couple of innings before heading to bed, at least catch some of the starters.

Pretty much agree with your reasons on the Gregg/Marmol thing.

I do think Marmol's going to become human this year, though. He had that great BABIP number last year, and the history of 5'10" guys who K 1.4 guys an inning just isn't there to make me think he can keep it up forever.

Carlos Marmol is listed at 6'2", though I still think that high a K-rate would be very difficult to sustain, as would his BABIP numbers.

i'd be more worried about his sketchy control, imo.

for all the bats he misses and the defenders the batted balls find, his control is rarely good.

He's certainly due to give back some, a .185 BABIP just isn't reasonable even for a reliever, but I wouldn't be surprised if HR/9 rate went down as well to offset some of that. Marmol's listed at 6-2" on the four sites I just looked at...

Recent comments

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  • Trading for Warren, Warren sucking, getting Warren back for Chapman plus 3 prospects, sounds like Revenge of The Yankees on the former Boston executive. Old rivalries never die.

    I pray to the heavens above Chapman doesn't suck for some reason, or he'll be booed out of town faster than a Todd Hundley revival meeting.

    Old and Blue 31 sec ago view
  • I'm kind of nostalgic for the Schwarber-for-Miller rumors.

    Brick 12 min 15 sec ago view
  • This offseason, after some ridiculous playoff run and Chapman saving every game from here until the end of the postseason striking out 27/9innings, I welcome anyone to quote this thread and call me a dummy: I hate this trade, and my hate is 2 parts Chapman makes this team less likeable and 1 part that's a ridiculous overpay for 30 regular season innings and, at tops, 10 postseason innings. Already hoping they don't extend him.

    Charlie 14 min 4 sec ago view
  • btw...Thanks AZ Phil. I'm really enjoying your take on this trade.

    Cubster 36 min 23 sec ago view
  • I'm a bit disappointed on the Warren experience. Essentially they gave Castro away for crickets (OK, well they signed Zobrist with the Castro salary dump). Otherwise one might look at it as Chapman for Castro and our #1 minors prospect (Torres) + McKinney/Crawford. Seems pricey for a 2 month rental. We will see if this price tag is that steep in a relative way based on the remaining deadline deals for relievers.

    Cubster 36 min 51 sec ago view
  • Yep. One of the great things about this team (in addition to being really good at baseball) was the "likable" factor. Feels a bit different now. Who knows...maybe Chapman will be the king of the dance parties.

    billybucks 45 min 40 sec ago view
  • Here are some possible corresponding minor league moves we might see in the aftermath  of the Chapman trade: 

    SOUTH BEND to MYRTLE BEACH: OF Donnie Dewees and INF Bryant Flete  

    EUGENE to SOUTH BEND: OF Robert Garcia and INF Vimael Machin 

    There is really no reason to replace Billy McKinney at Tennessee because both Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler are doing their rehab at Tennessee.  

    And there are plenty of pitchers at Iowa. No need to replace Warren at AAA. .  

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 5 min ago view
  • I am 70 years old. The Cubs last played in the World Series in 1945. I was born in 1946. I hate to lose a prospect like Torres, but when the opportunity is there to get that World Series ring, you go for it. This was the idea in stock piling all this young talent. I would like to see Reddick added now and the Cubbies should be done.

    Hagsag 1 hour 36 min ago view
  • I would expect Richard to accept an optional assignment because based on how he's played this season, there is a decent chance that he won't find work elsewhere. Rather stay and potentially get a ring. Same goes for Coghlan since he's struggled mightily this year.

    Edwards should not go down. He's pitched very well and Maddon is very impressed with him. I would expect Grimm to go down for Cahill so he can get back on track (he's pitched better in July, but he's not getting enough appearances).

    chitownmvp01 1 hour 39 min ago view
  • chitownmvp01: Indeed Clayton Richard would seem to be odd man out once Chapman reports, but Richard might accept a minor league assignment if he is promised a return to Chicago on 9/1 when MLB Active List rosters expand (Richard has minor league ioptions left).

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 42 min ago view
  • The only player in the deal that would cause me a second thought is Gleyber Torres.

    McKinney and Crawford are decent prospects but both are redundant/replaceable in the system and Warren was really only a middle-reliever or #6 starter, so to me it's really just Torres for Chapman.

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 3 min ago view
  • There is no Comp pick for players traded mid-season. 2+ months of Chapman is it.

    mbauer 2 hours 5 min ago view
  • to get one of the best you have to give up one/some of your best...but it's a bit painful to watch the system's best prospect walk for any 2-3 month rental, especially one that's not an everyday player.

    crunch 2 hours 8 min ago view
  • I assume Chapman will replace Richard on the roster, but who goes down when Cahill gets activated? Maybe Grimm?

    And when Soler and Coghlan get healthy, how do they fit them on the roster when they're ready to be activated?

    chitownmvp01 2 hours 11 min ago view
  • We are giving up a lot, but it's not like we're trading Addison Russell for 2+ months of Jason Hammel. When impact players become available, they are going to cost you. The other bids could also have been high.

    Having Chapman as a rental is potentially less disruptive than having him come in with an extension in place. 

    CTSteve 2 hours 12 min ago view
  • Billy McKinney had season-ending knee surgery last August and came to Minor League Camp this year somewhat restricted. (He was used mostly as a DH in Cactus League Minor League Camp games), and I'm not sure he's 100% right now (he's repeating AA, and his XBH numbers are way down, like he's not getting good rotation in his lowev half). That might have been part of the reason why the trade wasn't completed right away.

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 20 min ago view