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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kevin Gregg Closing in Chicago? Big Lou, Say it Ain't So.

I am sitting in the shadow of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox and a mecca of the baseball universe. So, for your pleasure, I will offer up some musings on. . .

The Chicago Cubs.

Who woulda thunk?

I am still trying to wrap my head around manager Lou Piniella's decision to make Kevin Gregg the closer, at least at the start of the 2009 campaign, rather than the electric Carlos Marmol.

When Kerry Wood was shipped to Cleveland for Mark DeRosa in the winter, everybody in the baseball world figured that Marmol was the heir-apparent. I mean, the guy was an All-Star last year and has the stuff to be a good major league closer. Maybe not on the level of Fransico Rodriguez, but certainly better than Fransico Cordero. He struck out 114 batters in 87.3 innings last year and posted a 25.3 VORP (value over replacement player, a stat created by Baseball Prospectus to evaluate players. Zero is replacement level, 10 is average. Top-tier relievers come out between 25-35).

Gregg was a decent pitcher in the Marlins bullpen last season and was traded to the Cubs in the offseason, but his stuff is not really comparable to Marmol. The numbers prove it: 58 strikeouts over 68.7 innings with a 12.8 VORP. Unlike Marmol, Gregg does not strike out more than a batter and inning. High strike out rates are important in the closer role. If a guy gets into trouble he can just rear back and blow a hitter away. That is why they get paid the big bucks.

On Sunday, Gregg had an adventurous outing as he tried to mop up a four run lead in the ninth against the Brewers. He walked a couple of guys, there were a couple hits and next thing anybody knew, it was 8-5 with the bases loaded and Prince Fielder was walking to the plate.

Fortunately for Gregg, he struck Fielder out. Think about it though. If Gregg had given up a walk-off grand slam against fielder, wouldn't the whole North Side of Chicago called for his head? They would have put it on a pike outside the bullpen at Wrigley Field, the way that the heads of traitors used to line London Bridge, as a warning to any pitcher who even thinks about blowing a four run lead to a division rival. Good thing it was not the Cardinals.

I fully suspect that Marmol will take Gregg's spot as the full time closer some time this year. Probably after a disastrous outing by Gregg. For now though, Piniella is content with the ninth inning adventures of Gregg while Marmol builds up his psyche in the set up role.

If Marmol struggles in that role? Well, we all remember how the song goes. . . "London Bridge is falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down. . . ."

So, did anyone catch Tim Wakefield's near no-hitter yesterday?

This article was originally published at

1 comment:

  1. I've come to expect anything with Piniella's name associated to it.. will be entertaining at best :).