Should the Cubs Get in on Smoltz or Wagner?

I haven't heard a word tying the Cubs to either player, but it seems like the Cubs could still use some help in the bullpen. As I mentioned Friday, Carlos Marmol's walk rate north of 8 per nine innings is historic....but not in a good way. Kevin Gregg is a perfectly capable and perfectly hittable closer. He'll get the job done more times than not, but so did Ryan Dempster, and I wouldn't want either closing out the 9th inning in a playoff game. I can't think of too many World Series champs that didn't have a shut-down closer, I know there are some (2001 Diamondbacks for example), but it seems far more often than not, that a team needs a relief ace back there. Even BP put it into their "Secret Sauce" recipe for predicting playoff success. That's not to say the Cubs can't win it all with Marmol and Gregg in the 8th and 9th, but those two don't particularly make me confident.

That leaves the Cubs with two potential upgrades, although they're hardly sure-things either. The New York Mets may possibly shop Billy Wagner, just about a year after his surgery. He's struck out 5 in 4 innings of rehab work so far and reports were that he was hitting up to 94 mph on his fastball. He's owed the remainder of his $10.5M 2009 contract (about $3M for the rest of the year depending on when a trade would happen) and has an $8M club option with a $1M buyout for 2010. The Mets would likely have to kick in some money to move Wagner if they wanted any decent type of return in players. According to the reverse-engineered Elias rankings, he would be a Type A free agent in the offseason, which is actually probably a bad thing. Considering his recent salary and Type A ranking, he'd probably do pretty good in an arbitration hearing despite missing most of 2009 and most teams seem to be avoiding Type A free agents and coughing up a draft pick except for the sure-fire superstars.

Now guys coming off Tommy John surgery usually don't have problems with their velocity, but rather their control and it's been my rather informal observation that the control doesn't come back for another 3-6 months after they're deemed fit to pitch in the big leagues. He hasn't walked a batter yet in the low levels, but that doesn't really tell the story. Any team that does take a chance on Wagner will want to see him against some better talent and probably a few games in the majors.

The other possibility is John Smoltz who was recently DFA'd by the Boston Red Sox after putting up an 8.32 ERA as a starter for them. It's not hard where to pinpoint his problem with a .649 OPS against versus righties and 1.248 versus lefties. A link via MLBTR says several NL teams and the Texas Rangers are interested in him, but they would all probably want some of his contract restructured or the Red Sox to kick in some money or possibly both. He's owed up to $5.5M this year based on days on the active roster and some award bonuses along with $500K for being traded. The Red Sox of course want him to accept a minor league assignment and transition to their own bullpen, so I'm not sure why Smoltz would find the Cubs situation anymore appealing other than he may possibly get a chance at the closer job that he wouldn't get in Boston. And that chance is nothing more than my own speculation.

Two interesting names out there, but they come with their own risks and pitfalls...sort of like the Cubs bullpen as it's currently constructed does. I'd probably prefer Wagner over Smoltz right now at the moment. With B.J. Ryan not working out, the Cubs could probably use another lefty. And if he does show some of that pre-surgery magic, there's the longshot that he could take over 9th inning duties.


"I can't think of too many World Series champs that didn't have a shut-down closer, I know there are some (2001 Diamondbacks for example), but it seems far more often than not, that a team needs a relief ace back there. "

Ironically, it was a blown save from one of the greatest closers of all time (and possibly the greatest post season closer ever) that led the D-Backs to the championship.

And that team got there despite the best efforts of Byung-Hyun Kim. Lost Game #4 and blew the save in Game #5, which the DBacks also eventually lost in the 12th.

That was a great series. Thanks for reminding me of 2001, TCR.

If you need TCR to remind you of the 2001 DBacks you must not get to watch too many Cubs telecasts.

This team... blahhh... 5 errors in the last 3 games. That's maddening.

And I'm irritated they didn't improve by the deadline even though St Louis did. I think they should have been in on the Lugo deal, as unpopular as that might be. Then move Riot over to 2B where he should be.

Then send our entire fucking scrap-heap 2B depth chart to single A Daytona where they belong. Maybe store Fontenot on the bench if you like his home run every once in a while or maybe keep Blanco if you like him making web gems, but I'd only keep one from that 4-some from hell.


And to answer the post, get Wagner if you can get him cheap: So... no.

Well, Ryno, you and I it seems were the only ones that felt Lugo would have been an improvement over what we have.

The Cubs will not be spending any money unlike in years past.

I fully expect the Cards to start pulling away with their offensive powerhouse. that means Wild Card prospects to me.

What is troubling is that the team is below .500 on the road, and they have not fared well against +.500 clubs.

They do not have that many home games left so...unless they figure it out soon, ot is gonna be tough based on these two trends.

It basically is a Hendry Thing this year.

They do not have that many home games left so

They have 29 home games left, and 24 road games. If they continue to play at the same %'s on the road and at home, they will finish the last 53 games at 29-24 (Home: 18-11, Road: 11-13).

Also, by my quick count, 37 of their final 53 games are against under .500 teams.

That's encouraging at least. They're just in a tough stretch right now with COL, PHI, SD, and LAD. They should feast on the Pads, but since they're playing in Petco and the Cubs get ~40% of their runs through the long ball, they'll likely get shut down. Awesome. At least they get 3 with PIT in the middle.

Nice to see Bradley start to show some signs of life though.

Encouraging, thanks.

DD: They're just in a tough stretch right now with ... SD

I'm not disagreeing with you, but ... wtf ...

WTF is right. The Cubs got swept the last time they went to Petco, so the Padres are "tough" until proven otherwise.

"They have 29 home games left, and 24 road games. If they continue to play at the same %'s on the road and at home, they will finish the last 53 games at 29-24 (Home: 18-11, Road: 11-13)."

Well, we will all see in another 60 days.

Apologies, I had no idea wanting in on the Lugo deal was not TCR-chic. {g}

I don't see how this team is a division winner, especially against the improved St. Louis. It's almost like they just wrote this year off because of the ownership debacle or something. It's frustrating, because with a little effort they could compete as-is, they just don't seem all that interested in it.

Mariotto to write a weekly column for Trib...will this make Paul Sullivan quit?

Maybe, maybe not, but it may make a lot of Trib readers quit reading.

"..will this make Paul Sullivan quit?"

Dare I dream?

No and No

Secret Sauce isn't a BP invention. I think it's one of the inventions by a SI guy (Verducci?) but was later quantified by ESPN.

well that particularly formula as far as I know is a BP development, considering it uses their proprietary stats. Supposedly they first introduced it in "Baseball Between the Numbers".

I'm sure someone else, somewhere may have had the idea that strike out pitchers, a good closer and good defense is the key to playoff success.

I haven't read that book, so maybe they give credit to someone else and just expanded or quantified the idea.

Ahh, you're right, I must have been thinking of something else.. maybe game score. Secret Sauce seems to have been developed by Silver and Perry. And it didn't work for shit last year.

Game Score is from Bill James.


Champion = Phillies, who were ranked 6th of 8 teams in 'Secret Sauce" just a hair out of being ranked last. The SS favorite won three out of seven playoff series.


Champion = Red Sox who were ranked 1st. The SS favorite won 4 out of 7 series. Take out the Sox and the SS favorite won 1 out of 4.

Over those two years, SS is exactly as accurate as flipping a coin - despite the 2007 Red Sox championship.

I think it's an amusing toy at best...BP of course thinks they've uncovered the Holy Grail yet again.

you mean the 3 year "travis hafner" lovefest they had...over a f'n no-running late 20s over? all that fuss over a guy even though he was a physical mess with no glove or speed?


I always just thought it was Thousand Island dressing.

Bradley since his 'last game of the season':
.377 .507 .528

Since his "I am going to hit all of the second half" proclamation:

.344 .474 .475

Now if we could just get Soto and the second basement to proclaim the same thing. Warning Track Baker was really wearing out that warning track yesterday, though.

...second basement...

Not sure if this was a typo or not, but either way it's brilliant. It's a trash heap at 2B.

What..was LouPA listening in last week...deciding to hit MB 2nd?

Great weekend for him!

even if this team manages to qualify for the playoffs it's hard to imagine it breaking the 9 game losing streak; addition of either Wagner or Smoltz would be another grasp @ a straw & even if it panned out wouldn't help w/ RISP avg. or lack of an ace/horse/stud/stopper...

Smoltz no, his stats are as brutal from pitch 1 to 15 as they are from pitch 16 on. As for Wagner just like about everyone else would seem too pricey because of the ownership, though if the Mets dangle him in the off-season if our ownership clears up it would be worth a shot as 8 mil a year seems to be the going rate for better than average closers. Gregg for the most part has been solid. For all the Hendry about the bashing about the off-season (and the vast majority of it rightly so) he did nail the closer thing right. Paying Wood $10+ million would have dreadful and he did dump Ceda at the right time.

Smoltz no, his stats are as brutal from pitch 1 to 15 as they are from pitch 16 on.

Where are you getting your stats from?

1st time through a lineup, OPS against: 655

OPS 1st inning: 705
OPS 2nd inning: 464

OPS, Pitches 1-25: 681

check out dumpster's historic 1-15 pitch count before he became our was during my "dumpster should be f'n starting, wtf?" era. It was his worst block of pitching broken down by 15 pitch blocks by far...really bad.

of course i was kinda wrong about that and he did an adequate job...on the other hand i still would have liked to seen him start rather than close those years.

this all begs the question of who cares?

why would a starter come out firing his first 15 pitches like a closer?

I was being too nice to make that point.

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  • video of Maddon.

    always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.

    Rob G. 7 hours 10 min ago view
  • from Muskat:

    #Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs

    Rob G. 7 hours 15 min ago view

    Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.

    Rob G. 7 hours 20 min ago view
  • great defense

    Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.

    Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.

    I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.

    Rob G. 7 hours 32 min ago view
  • If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?

    Craig A. 7 hours 43 min ago view
  • #Cubs plummet to 19-5 in August.

    Fun with FIP

    • J. Hammel   3.07 ERA/4.27 FIP (3.68 FIP last year)
    • J. Arrieta     2.62 ERA/3.05 FIP (2.35 FIP last year)
    • J. Lester     2.81 ERA/3.67 FIP (2.92 FIP last year)
    • K. Hendricks  2.19 ERA/3.37 FIP (3.36 FIP last year)
    • J. Lackey     3.41 ERA/3.72 FIP (3.57 FIP last year with Cards)
    Rob G. 8 hours 8 min ago view
  • zastyryzryzryzny put in 3.2ip 1h 0bb 3k

    he's great when his control is "on"...problem is it's rarely "on" consistently. he could vault up the cubs prospect list if he ever gets better with that aspect of his game.

    crunch 8 hours 48 min ago view
  • JD's take was just trying to get in a lefty to better deal with mostly lefty Dodgers lineup.

    My second thought was what you came up with. My first thought was he was trying to light a fire under Hammel.

    Jackstraw 10 hours 52 sec ago view
  • Maybe he was trying to spare him another brutal road start? NY, Colorado...

    billybucks 10 hours 17 min ago view
  • joe got a pitcher up for hammel at nearly the 1st sign of trouble in the 3rd...pulled after 2.1

    not injured and though it wasn't his day so far he wasn't looking like a pure disaster.

    really short leash on him. zastryznzryzryny in.

    crunch 10 hours 22 min ago view
  • Russell and Soler can attest that Urias has a pretty good curve/slider - two big strikeouts looking to get out of that jam in the first.

    Eric S 11 hours 6 min ago view
  • Classic Scully - great stuff.

    Thank God we'll still have Hawk next season. (cricket cricket cricket)

    Eric S 15 hours 57 min ago view
  • Here's Scully's call on Bryant's 10th-inning homer:

    "And it's a long fly ball, a mean fly ball, and a gone fly ball."

    VirginiaPhil 17 hours 11 min ago view
  • When the Cubs were the old, hundred-year Cubs, one bad hop did not undo their opponents.

    VirginiaPhil 17 hours 14 min ago view
  • If only he was clutcher. More clutcher.

    Jackstraw 18 hours 33 min ago view
  • cubs win...bryant with 7HR in his last 8 games.

    crunch 1 day 1 hour ago view