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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  • any opponent preference for NLDS?

    Mets are down to 1 great pitcher instead of 4. Syndegaard may pitch Sunday which means if Mets win the WC game, he'd be set up for Game 1. There's a chance they clinch a spot by Sunday so he'd pitch the WC and then we'd probably get Colon for Game 1. They've certainly had the hottest bats over the last week and month out of the WC options.

    Rob G. 12 min 7 sec ago view
  • Rob Richardson 5 hours 15 min ago view
  • Can't teach height and thinness

    jacos 7 hours 11 min ago view
  • Hopefully Pirates don't call up A. Lincoln.

    jacos 16 hours 41 min ago view
  • j.buchanan going friday...should be...baseball...or something like it.

    crunch 16 hours 48 min ago view
  • Wow. I didn't know they could do that.

    Nice for Willson, not so much for Addy.

    billybucks 17 hours 5 min ago view
  • Game is officially called...also officially a tie.

    Stats count, no make-up date of course.

     

    Rob G. 17 hours 7 min ago view
  • Yeah -- seeing the weather -- I hope KB and Rizz are inside, wrapped in blankets and drinking hot chocolate.

    billybucks 17 hours 53 min ago view
  • rain delay...thanks obama.

    crunch 18 hours 31 min ago view
  • Thanks again Phil. We actually were in Mesa and drove around. Hopefully, I am back for some Fall League. If not I have all of spring training (like the smart people who move here!)

    rvimpeny 19 hours 35 min ago view
  • What Rob G said.  I can't speak for Piittsburgh, but the other end of the state has had absolute crap weather for two days. Perfect day to take it easy.

    Transmission 19 hours 39 min ago view
  • tarp came off 10 minutes ago...let's do this.

    crunch 19 hours 53 min ago view
  • He will not pitch another game for Cubs

    /Unless injury in playoffs

    jacos 20 hours 10 min ago view
  • ~fart~

    jacos 20 hours 10 min ago view
  • Today is bullpen day

    jacos 20 hours 11 min ago view
  • 10/450 if they win WS

    jacos 20 hours 11 min ago view