Spring Training Battles

Spring Training Battles: Closer

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I take a look at the competition for the fabled closer role between Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood. It's the final piece in the series and I know you will all miss my Wrestlemania-inspired graphic.

The closer battle is probably the least crucial of the spring training battles this year, for two reasons. First, the closer role is generally overrated. The closer protects more three-run leads with nobody on than he does one-run leads with the go-ahead run coming up. Set-up men are often asked to wiggle out of more difficult jams than closers, who are usually brought in just to start the ninth inning with a clean slate. Second, all three candidates can do the job just fine, so Lou really can't lose on this one. Sure, you'd like to pick the best, but those outs in the seventh and eighth are just as crucial; and the two "losers" will slide into the set-up men roles. Plus, if the winner out of spring training can't hack it, the Cubs have two ready-made options ready to fill-in, possibly three if Ryan Dempster isn't cutting it as a a starter. As they say in the old country, it's a good problem to have.

Let's take a closer look after the jump....

Spring Training Battles: Starting Pitching

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll look at the starting rotation battle between Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall. I won't pretend that Sean Gallagher has a legitimate chance, although I guess I am pretending that Sean Marshall does.

Unable or unwilling to trade for some of the top notch talent that was moved over the offseason, such as Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren; the Cubs head into 2008 with much of the same talent that was good for the second best ERA among NL starting staffs last year. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill
will anchor the staff, and if Marquis and Marshall win the jobs, you'll have the same starting five that took the mound for the bulk of last season.

That though, appears to be the least likely scenario, as Ryan Dempster is getting his wish to compete for a starting spot and the Cubs signed Lieber on a one year deal. It appears to be a bit of a logjam at the moment, but the bullpen or the trade market can alleviate that "problem" at the end of spring training.

Let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate after the jump...

Spring Training Battles: Center Field

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll take a look at the center field spot between Felix Pie and Sam Fuld.

The Cubs had the opportunity this offseason to shore up center field with a more reliable veteran, as a few stars hit the market including Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones
. The Cubs were obviously determined to give their youngsters a shot at the job, as they didn't even bother to call Hunter, which leads to the obvious conclusion that they probably didn't call any of the available center field free agents. We'll all soon find out if that confidence will be rewarded.

Felix Pie has been one of the Cubs top prospects and usually the Cubs top prospect ever since he joined the organization as a wide-eyed 17-year old out of the Dominican Republic. Pie has often been compared to the Cubs last great center field prospect, Corey Patterson, both being left-handed hitters with five-tool talent and questionable strike zone judgement. A tenous comparison, superficial at best, and, to be honest, a lazy comparison. While Corey Patterson struggled with each promotion in the minors and was truly rushed to the majors, Pie has taken each promotion in stride, often putting up better numbers than the previous stop.

Let's compare the two after the jump....

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  • Classic ending, about 12:11 AM, CST. 5 hours, 3 minutes. Both teams have bases loaded, no out situations in the last inning.

    Magic #19.

    Last man on the bench, Montero gets it done.

    Cubster 2 hours 42 min ago view
  • This fucking game

    Baez lucky to not have hurt his hand with headfirst slide on play at plate in 12th inning.

    Rob G. 3 hours 38 min ago view
  • #$@!$!@$!@$#@!$@!$!@#!@!

    SOLER POWER!

    crunch 4 hours 43 min ago view
  • Maddon's master plan to challenge his offense to improve on coming from behind late in games is working amazingly.

    Rob G. 5 hours 16 min ago view
  • Everyone remember Starlin Castro dropping or misplaying just about every ball near second base that involved a tag?

    Javier Baez is the opposite of that.

    Rob G. 5 hours 25 min ago view
  • on the wild pitch thing, did they really call that a wild pitch on Jansen that Heyward scored on Friday? If so, I don't know what a passed ball is anymore.

    Rob G. 5 hours 28 min ago view
  • Let's see -- up 3-0, at home, Jake on the mound annnnd....compare and contrast 2015 to 2016. Bleh.

    Hopefully, the Pirates will uncork a series of 9th inning wild pitches.

    billybucks 5 hours 32 min ago view
  • modern media

    @BNightengale: Former #MLB pitcher Dan Haren will be throwing to Tim Tebow tomorrow during his tryout in LA, he announced.

     [email protected](dan haren): @BNightengale nope, I was offered the opportunity and declined.

     @ithrow88 Oh and memo to my agent, @bvanwagenen: Pitching to Tim Tebow tomorrow DOES NOT count as getting me a real job offer.

    Rob G. 5 hours 51 min ago view
  • I think the Cub Reporter should be politics free.
    ---
    Build Bridges. Don't anyone dare pull out a trump card.

    Cubster 5 hours 59 min ago view
  • The Cub offense is in on the con.

    1-for-10 so far w/RISP.

    billybucks 6 hours 4 min ago view
  • swing and a miss.

    i'm gonna like...go stand over there. *points*

    crunch 6 hours 4 min ago view
  • This is all a long con by Arrieta to lull playoff opponents.

    Rob G. 6 hours 8 min ago view
  • the factual correction on your mistakes on your post that I barely bothered to read the first time because it had nothing to do with anything I wanted to talk about is indeed a sign of my degenerative brain condition. I appreciate the safety tip and will be looking into with extreme urgency now.

    Rob G. 6 hours 31 min ago view
  • it took you 4 posts to get to this?

    have you checked the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector?

    #droppingknowledge #savinglives

    crunch 6 hours 55 min ago view
  • Fwiw, Billy Hamilton's actual WAR numbers that relate to the ones that I posted for Mike Trout are:

    • 2014: 2.5
    • 2015: 1.0
    • 2016: 2.6

    But by all means #crunchsplain on the stupidity of WAR while exaggerating your points. I can't wait to read more.

    Rob G. 7 hours 1 min ago view
  • jacos 7 hours 1 min ago view