Baseball Toaster Cub Town
2004-11-21 10:33
by alex ciepley

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Cubs have asked about Brewers closer Danny Kolb.

The Chicago Cubs, among others, have asked about the availability of closer Dan Kolb, a Boras client who is arbitration-eligible.

"His contract is manageable," said [Brewers General Manager Doug] Melvin, who paid Kolb $1.5 million last season. "(The Cubs) asked about him but I said I dont have to move him.

"The only trade youd do is if it helped your ballclub. Hes still part of what were trying to do. Unless I get bowled over, Im not motivated to move him."

A couple days ago I had a few brief comments on Kolb. My general impression was slightly favorable: despite having a poor strikeout rate, I thought his groundball-o-matic pitching strategy was a point in his favor.

I also noted that Kolb's control was only "marginally good", figuring that the high walk rates of both 2002 and 2003 weren't entirely cancelled out by the good rate of 2004. However, this sudden improvement in control (and lowering of his strikeout rate) does seem to have been a conscious decision made by Kolb and his pitching coach. From a Journal Sentinel article around midseason:

Changing his pitching style dramatically, Kolb began clicking off saves with regularity. Instead of trying to blow away hitters with his fastball as in the past, Kolb took lessons from pitching coach Mike Maddux and began taking something off his pitches.

The result was better control, lower pitch counts and quicker innings. It also has led to fewer strikeouts, but how can you quibble with the results?

I'm not enamored with Kolb, but I also certainly wouldn't be Neifi Perez Mad if he were acquired at a reasonable price.

All-Baseball's historian and analyst extraordinaire Rich Lederer (you should make his Weekend Beat a regular stop) chimes in with an email on the subject of Kolb:

What is up with Hendry's desire to get Dan Kolb?
I mean, Kolb wasn't good when he was good. OK, Kolb had a good year in 2003, but he regressed last year. 21 K's in 57 IP. Are you kidding me? I know he throws a sinking fastball and relies on making batters hit groundballs (over 3:1 G/F ratio for his career) and getting DPs in crucial situations, but c'mon now. His stats last year were front-end loaded (1.62 ERA 1st half, 4.88 ERA 2nd half with 10 Ks and 10 BB in 24 IP). He also gave up all three of his unearned runs in the second half. His run average was actually 6.00.
Besides the first half, the only thing you can point to that might give you some hope was his ERA on the road (2.19). However, if you drill down deeper, note that he only struck out FIVE batters against EIGHT walks in 24.2 IP.
Personally, I think Hendry must be impressed with how well Kolb pitched against the Cubs (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, and 6 SV). However, he won't be able to pitch against the Cubs next year. Take those numbers away from him and his ERA for the season is 3.40 rather than 2.98.
Kolb is also nothing more than a one-inning guy. He got absolutely torched after throwing 15 pitches last year (.475/.512/.700).
If I were a Cubs fan, rather than going after guys like Percival and Kolb, I would like to see my Cubbies put all of this money toward Carlos Beltran.
Rich makes some great points, taking a bit of wind out of any Get Kolb! campaigns. I had known Kolb was more effective in the first half, but I hadn't really realized the severity of his second half decline. There's a worry that after half a year of surprising batters with his new strategy (slow it down and get it over), Kolb was perhaps unable to stay ahead of the curve in the second half.

I think Rich's final point, though, is the most important. Teams too often spend a little bit too much on a gaggle of mediocrities, when the collective money would have been spent better on a true impact player. The Giants were a great example of this last year--spending oodles of cash on second-tier players instead of going after Vlad Guerrerro.

More often than not, a "stars and scrubs" strategy will work: spend on top players and fill in remaining holes with less expensive talent. The alternate, perhaps, is to become the Washington Ex-Expos, and realize at the end of the offseason that you could've had a Beltran or Magglio or Drew... but instead have a whole bunch of Vinny Castillas and Christian Guzmans.

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