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Disjointed Thoughts of a Sleep Deprived Man
by Derek Smart
Let me be very clear: There was nothing wrong with putting Carlos Marmol in last night's game. There was nothing wrong with taking Z out after six innings. As well as the Cub bullpen has pitched for the last several months, you have to be able to lean on them at critical junctures in the game. That's what they're there for.
The fact that the tactic didn't work - that the guy with the sub-2.00 ERA and wicked stuff, who I think all of us have been thrilled to see come in just about any game of late due to his ability to relentlessly slam the door on the opposition's greedily grasping fingers - does not invalidate the strategy itself.
My litmus test for this sort of situation goes like this: had the hindsight-aided plan been used, and the same result occurred, would the screamers be screaming for the plan they're railing against today? In other words, had Zambrano been left in the game and given up those two runs in the seventh, would the same individuals wailing this morning about Z getting yanked be shrieking about leaving him in, because after all, you're going to be using him on three days rest, and you've got this great back end of your bullpen, so why not bloody well use it? I think for many, the answer is 'yes', so I feel within my rights to dismiss them out of hand.
Besides, as many have already observed this morning, the club ran into a buzzsaw named Brandon Webb, so if you're looking to hand someone with responsibility for last night's outcome, he's your man. Well, Webb and the Cub lineup that failed to get to him. There were some actual hard hit balls last night, just at someone, and poorly timed. Manage to get those guys at second with no outs over to third with one, and we might have a different story.
We don't, though. The offense couldn't get it done, and that was the real issue last night. So on the question of who should have pitched when and to whom, I put to you that with the team failing to mount any significant offensive challenge, in the immortal words of Jesse Jackson, "The question is moot!"
I confess that I have an irrational fear of Doug Davis. I know he hasn't owned the club every time out, but it seems pretty darn close, and he certainly dominated them earlier this year. He's not a great pitcher, and could only be considered good under the most charitable of circumstances, but he seems to have this hypnotic power over the Cubs. He doesn't overpower anyone, just gives a side-show charletain's wave of the hand, a few mumbled words - "This is not the pitch you're looking for." - and back to the bench they go.
That said, when a little science is applied, things appear slightly less bleak. Remove the pitchers from your calculations, and the current Cub roster has a career .264/.329/.410 line against Davis in 148 plate appearances. Certainly that's not good - the team's line for the year, pitchers included, is .271/.333/.422 - but not nearly as dire as I might have thought.
The item that should be of greatest concern is the way Derrek Lee has hit against him. 24 PAs, 2 walks, 1 single, 1 double, 2 home runs, and 12 strikeouts. For those of you scoring at home, half the time Lee comes to the dish against Davis, he whiffs. He gets a homer every 12 PAs, which is certainly nice, but it's very much an all or nothing proposition. Ramirez isn't much better, getting an extra single, six fewer Ks, and a couple of sac flies over 26 PAs.
The good news is, Soriano, Murton, and Theriot have handled him well in smaller sample sizes, so there's certainly an opportunity to get men on in front of the middle of the lineup with the hope that the all or nothing produces some all. Still, I can't say I feel good. I don't feel bad, just not good. That'll do for now, but I need a little better by the end of the night. Here's hoping our boys can deliver.