Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Disjointed Thoughts of a Sleep Deprived Man
2007-10-04 07:19
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.

2007-10-04 07:50:27
1.   hernan
I agree with your comments as far as Lou's strategy, however, Marmol had an equally subpar performance in a high-pressure situation in Florida, giving up a painful HR to Miguel Cabrera. Perhaps the comparisons to 2002 K-Rod are out of line.

I liked the team's overall intensity, with the exception of Derrek Lee, who frankly looked like an amateur hitter. I understand that Webb is one of the toughest guys out there, but you gotta give him more of a fight.

I was worried about Davis (being a lefty) but I prefer to recall the ass-kicking the Pirates' 3 lefties (maholm-duke-gorzelanny) received at Wrigley. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Davis would be more of a Maholm than a Gorzelanny... in other words, it's not like we'll be facing Cole Hamels. We should get the win tonight.

Go CUBS!!!

2007-10-04 08:15:28
2.   Josh Wilker
"The question is moot!"

This phrase was given a hilarious off-rhyme echo by the malapropism-ing Piniella a couple weeks ago: "We go to Cincinnati, we win three in a row, and all this talk here is mute."

2007-10-04 08:18:07
3.   Ken Arneson
I have to disagree with you and Lou, Derek, for two reasons:

First rule of playoff baseball managing: win the game at hand. You may not have a game four to worry about if you don't win at least one of the preceding ones. Your odds of winning the series if you win this game are about 67%; if you lose this game, it's only 33%. This is especially true if you're in a tie game: worry about game four if you get to it; you need to win game one right now.

Which brings me to the second point: the game at hand had become a game of bullpen attrition. Both teams have deep, quality bullpens, and this was the kind of game that might be won by whichever team ran out of arms in the thirteenth or fourteenth innings. That's exactly the mistake Clint Hurdle made against the Padres the other day; he pitched a bunch of pitchers for one inning in a tie game, when they quite easily could have gone two. He ended up having to pitch Jorge Julio and Ramon Ortiz in the 13th, while the Padres still had Trevor Hoffman left. Obviously, it worked out in the end for Hurdle, but that doesn't mean the choices he made weren't wrong. If you can get one more inning out of your best pitcher in a tie game in the playoffs, you have to do it. It goes a long way towards maximizing your chances of winning the playoffs.

2007-10-04 08:24:03
4.   Josh Wilker
I defer to the experts above, but I do disagree with planning to pitch your ace on short rest in game 4 rather than full rest in game 5. Someone's going to have to win games besides the ace, so why not maximize his chances to win his starts, rather than minimizing them while still having to find wins by lesser pitchers elsewhere? I never really understood this convention. I mean, I guess if you're facing elimination it seems better to go down with your best, but even if they win that game (which they have a lesser chance to do than if they'd been given full rest), you still have to find another win from someone else.
2007-10-04 08:32:29
5.   Ken Arneson
4 Well, I agree with that decision. In this case, (a) Ted Lilly might actually be their ace, and he will be pitching on full rest because of the weird schedule for this series, (b) the Cubs really only have three good starters, and (c) Zambrano is a horse; if anyone in baseball can pitch on three days' rest, it's him.
2007-10-04 09:15:42
6.   Derek Smart
3 I certainly get that rationale, and truth be told, that's been the way Lou's managed the team all season. That said, even as well as he pitched, I can understand not being entirely sure what you're going to continue to get from Z going forward. Yes, he's a horse, but he's been prone to giving it up right in that pitch range he was in.

This year, between pitches 76-100, teams have hit .292/.369/.534 against him. There's likely some noise from those instances where he reached that point somewhere in the third inning, but it's something to be concerned about. His seventh innings have also seen an opponent's line of .274/.384/.484. Third or greater time through the order, they're hitting him at a .295/.387/.518 clip. Small sample size and all that, but this is definitely different than how things have been over his career, and it's worth worrying about.

4 Yeah, in this case, if my choice is pitch Z on short rest in Game 4 and Lilly on full rest in Game 5, versus pitching Jason Marquis and hoping to the Gods Above that the Cubs score 746 runs so you can get to your fully rested Zambrano, I'll take Option 1. In addition, Ken makes a good point in 5 that Lilly is a lot closer to being their ace at the moment, if only because of his relative consistency. Predicting how Z is going to pitch this season has been like playing pin the tail on the donkey, the lawn dart version. Put a donkey outline on the ground, don a blindfold, spin for a minute, throw, pray. Sometimes you have a lovely, well placed appendage for your beast of burden, and sometimes you're taking 4 people to the hospital with arterial puncture wounds.

2007-10-04 10:14:17
7.   Phil Bencomo
Carlos Marmol has been a sure thing all year. The same cannot be said about Carlos Zambrano, from game to game or even batter to batter. And as Derek mentioned, the stats did little to help his cause. You can't assume he would have made it through the inning clean: Z could have imploded in the seventh, judging from the way he's played this year.

And knowing the way Lou manages, I'm sure going to extra innings was the last thing on his mind. He did what he thought best to at least preserve the tie -- by turning the game over to what's been an effective pen -- and put the onus on the bats to win the game.

True, Game 4 was on Lou's mind, and he said as much, but only because he knew he had a good pen to work with. He had the opportunity to keep Z strong AND keep the Cubs in the game. It didn't work out, but the reasoning is sound. With a weaker pen, the Cubs don't pull Z, simply out of necessity. But such is not the case.

2007-10-04 10:19:06
8.   Ken Arneson
6 Youneverknow, of course. But that's true whatever decision you make. Personally, since Zambrano was throwing well at the time, I would have made sure Marmol was warmed up, but let Zambrano go out there another inning, ready to yank him at the first sign of trouble.
2007-10-04 10:27:38
9.   Ken Arneson
7 Yes, but whether or not to use that strategy should depend on your opponent, too. You have to consider whether your opponent also has a deep pen or a shallow one. I would do what Piniella did in a heartbeat if the Cubs were facing the Phillies, because I'd trust my offense to score against their mediocre middle relief. But against the Diamondbacks, whose bullpen is deeper than yours, you're more likely to need to match them zero for zero for a while.
2007-10-04 15:28:11
10.   hernan
Let's forget about what Lou did or did not do, the issue can be debated forever. Every fan must focus on sending good vibes so Lilly has a strong start and the Cubs can kick Doug Davis' ass tonight. Get the series to 1-1, ride the talented Rich Hill on Game 3 and a well-rested Big Z on Game 4 (the clincher).

The Cubs should win the series. They clearly have better players, and deserve good luck in Game 2. Looking for the 2007 version of 2002 K-Rod?... look no further: KERRY WOOD. It starts tonight.

Another thing...what about those damn Rockies!!! Sweeping the first 2 @ Philly??? that's just sick.

2007-10-04 17:28:30
11.   bhsportsguy
3 I agree and that was one thing about Joe Torre that I think he does every game the Yankess play whether its game 1 of the season or first game of the playoffs, he always tries to win today's game.

Often this year, I had the feeling that Grady Little was always worried about the next game and they may cause him to keep a guy in to long.

But if this his how Lou managed all year, than I maybe it was the right move.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.