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
IR % Easy
Games Clean
Sv/Hld Pct
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.


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


Viva El Birdos preview


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...


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.


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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  • Oh what do you know, Cubster? Go back to your day job.

    --- Ducks, puts on Cardinals cap, runs.

  • Russell had a severe hamstring last year while with the A's system, forcing him to miss the first half of 2014. I've even wondered if his injury last year was a component of Billy Beane putting him on the trade market. He was quoted saying that last year's injury was a 10 out of 10 when it happened. Last night he said his hamstring soreness was a 1/1.5 out of 10. Hamstring injuries are tricky though, so I'd expect the medical team to be overly cautious here.

  • ...I want to reinforce the observation that there was no sea of red in the crowd. The usual Cardinal fans roaming the stadium were few and far between.

    Also, almost every 2 strike pitch brought the fans to their feet. Good for those in knee rehab.

  • "1st team hit hit 6HR in a game in the postseason." rises above obvious...i checked it with the official fact-finding commission of Douche, Douche, and Douchestein. they agreed with you, but they're a bunch of f'n douches so who cares?

    btw, the cubs are 2-1 in the post-season series.

  • I should be able to watch the game on the NFL replay app, whatever that thing is called. I've got it on my iPad. This is the first year I haven't forced myself to somehow watch every game - no I take that back, last year was - in quite some time. Last year was so unbearable, no pun intended.

    You make some good points about Cutler, and I was a holdout defender of Cutler for a long time. I gave up on him a bit after one too many dumb interceptions, but last year doesn't count. Trestman was the worst coach in Bears history.

  • Nice little reportage there!. I think you're older than me. Considerably older. Maybe several generations. Working out is so essential, especially as age kicks in, isn't it? I still lift weights, and so I'm confident that when I get to be at the hip breaking age, mine won't be a statistic. But I have a ways to go for that to be a concern.

  • What was impressive to me is that the Cubs won despite poor base running, several defensive miscues, Russell leaving due to injury, Arrieta having an off game and getting knocked out early, and Rondon giving up 2 runs in the 9th. If they can win a game like that... 

  • I was there too. The crowd was absolutely electric. People were standing for every big and semi-big moment, from the first inning on. It felt incredibly strange and exhilarating to see the Cubs (the Chicago bleepin' Cubs!) score playoff insurance runs on the Cardinals. What a game. One to remember.

  • 14 in attendance. What's the record for attendance in the fall? I guess I should ask what the record attendance listed is in one of your recaps.

  • I was there too, with my grown son. This is my miracle year-- I rose to the top of the season ticket list after eight years, completely unexpectedly, and my wonderful wife agreed to put the ticket fee on the emergency credit card. The whole point of course was that the Cubs were going to be good this year, and then for a while, so to get season tickets with the guaranteed shot at the postseason was incredible timing. We got to the remote lot at 4:10 after stopping at Nhu Lan for our usual banh mi sandwiches, only to find the lot full, way earlier than normal.

  • Wrigley was electric tonite
    Not many card fans
    Video board was great, they played "there goes my hero" by foos over ryno highlights before he came out. Spectacular

    Good times hopefully they win tomorrow but think Lester will beat poopy pants on Wednesday.

    Happy 4th anniversary of Theo's signing

    Go Cubs !

  • Yeah. "Goodbye!" is a lame HR call.

    I miss Len and JD -- although, driving home from a friend's, WBBM played all 6 HR calls in a row -- and Len got to call the Bryant/Rizzo back-to-back. Very fun.

  • Lackey has been a beast against us. His stats on 3 days rest, however, not as nice. There is plenty of hope.

  • And, no dreadlocks grown yet.

  • Captain Obvious Strikes Again!!!

  • Amen, brother.