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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  • based on what SF has been doing every other year lately, getting access to the postseason playoffs seems to be what's important. bring on dat short series!

    that said, skipping the sudden death 1-game WC would be nice from here on out.

  • I know what you are saying, but I feel compelled to point out that there's no such thing as luck, curses, etc. The Cubs this year have as good as a chance as the Pirates to move on to the next round. If the Cubs proceed to the next round or not tomorrow, it will not be because of luck, but because one team outlasted the other. When/if the Cubs are lucky enough to make it to the league series, that's where they may find their biggest challenge. The Dodgers have a good, deep pitching staff.

  • debuting the new format 1 game "sudden death" WC matchup at yankee stadium does a perfect job of showing the intense emotion and drama this game can be.

    that said, i'm ready to not see yankee stadium or hear fans at yankee stadium for another 5 and 1/2 months. at least i don't have to sit through the braves with their "tommy hawk chawp" this postseason.

  • i'd like to know why the mlb.tv internet radio feed of the game (which is always delayed by a few seconds at best) is almost a minute faster than the ESPN cable TV coverage. wtf?

  • i dont know what order they'll be in, but i pretty much expect fowler/schwarb/rizzo/bryant/montero/castro/lastella/arrieta. any change at all (aside from the first 4 guys) wouldn't shock me, though. coghlan is still a wildcard in the lineup equation...plus joe could always march d.ross out there with very slow arrieta pitching.

  • Yup. Have to agree. Baseball, like golf, certainly has that psych component for the player. There is no real reason why a fielding position should affect a batting average. The Cubs are 106 years over due for a little luck. Don't you guys think so? Maybe the rookies can bring some dumb luck on.

  • probably stacking capable lefties vs cole while keeping the "hot" castro in the game. fwiw, he's 1-6 lifetime with 0 bb/k vs cole (double).

    i chalk bryant's issues at the plate while playing OF up to coincidence so far.

  • I will call your dead horse, "Trigger".

    In one game, when anything is possble, I am glad that Joe Maddon is our Manager.

    He knows the stats better than all of us. It would seem, IF La Stella gets the start at 3B, it will be only up to the point that they were to get the lead (crosses fingers). From everything I have read, the game will be managed like a hoops game: offense/defense. So expect La Stella to be out of the game by the 5th. This team is incredibly deep which is so surprising. We never woulda thunk it.

  • i don't know what their roster plans are, but j.herrera is out there practicing with the team.

    i can't imagine him making any roster, though. dude had 4 PA the entire month of sept. him being a good dude to be around while keeping the clubhouse loose seems to be his main role at this point.

  • I know it's my own personal dead horse to beat --but Bryant has been a lousy hitter when playing the OF this year. Given that it's his first playoff game, I really hope they keep him in his natural position and don't mess with his routine.

    Lousy as in 8-for-45 with one XBH and no HR. Small sample and all that -- but why take the chance?

  • hard to tell what's up given they'll probably want to stack as many good lefties into the lineup as possible.

    castro being a bit hot doesn't help things. if he was still cool they'd probably stick la stella at 2nd and call it a day.

  • Madden won't announce lineups but Stella is practicing at 3rd and Bryant in LF today. I'd rather see Bryant at 3rd but I guess Stella has been hotter than Coghlan.

    /edit. Though I guess they could be practicing this with the idea Stella would come in as a PH then double switch him to 3rd base and Bryant to LF. Hope that's the plan instead

  • I really like the sound of that idea about expanding the AFL to ten teams. Each org. gets to field more players.
    They should do that anyway, regardless of Adv. Instructs.

  • Dallas Beeler, Corey Black, David Garner, Pierce Johnson, Steve Perakslis, James Pugliese, Duane Underwood Jr, and Rob Zastryzny threw early-morning bullpen side-sessions at Riverview yesterday.  

    Underwood threw last, and received specific one-on-one instruction from pitching coach Mike Mason. 

  • HAGSAG: There are only five advanced instructs squads left, and presently the only "co-op" team operating is the Angels/Cubs.

    The league was originally established as a "parallel" league to the AFL (a sort of "junior AFL"), for players too advanced for traditional ("basic") instructs but who were unable to get placed on AFL rosters due to AFL player-limits.

  • He is but I would think it'd be better to start out with offense and then bring in Jackson and LaStella once they have a lead. Stella has very good PH #s too.