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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  • It's August 26. Cubs with 14 game lead. And not for #1 draft pick.

    Words I never thought I would type together.

    Jackstraw 14 min 35 sec ago view
  • How well does he hold on runners?

    Tito 21 min 4 sec ago view
  • One more victory to ensure a winning season!

    billybucks 2 hours 30 min ago view
  • If I were a betting man

    Give me the Dodgers tonite, not just because of
    Monty on mound.

    Two nights in LA for the kids? Woooo

    /Prove me wrong

    jacos 2 hours 31 min ago view
  • When Scherzer is on his game, he might the the most dominant and intimidating pitcher. A couple of games he has pitched against the Cubs when he had his stuff, and his mound presence was just powerful.

    billybucks 2 hours 32 min ago view
  • So are lack of chances due to the great pitching?

    jacos 2 hours 34 min ago view
  • TLS watch: 0-4 with Iowa last night. Saving his pinch hits for September.

    Cubster 3 hours 24 min ago view
  • Objectively true. Scherzer's FIP is almost a half point higher than his ERA, mostly I deduce because his BABIP is .249 so something ridiculous like that. It's not like the guy can't be scored on, but when I watch him, I sometimes feel that he's the most in control of the game moving around him.

    John Beasley 4 hours 8 min ago view
  • Certainly might be the hottest pitcher right now, but he's behind a few pitchers by most objective full season standards.

    Rob G. 7 hours 23 min ago view
  • Well noted. You may also note that Lester's Career Playoff ERA is almost a full point lower, and he has a lower WHIP as well.

    Can't have everything, I guess.

    The E-Man 12 hours 29 min ago view
  • i'm happy enough with the Lester signing, but Scherzer has more than earned the extra money so far. If he was in the rotation instead of Lester, this team would feel practically bulletproof to me.

    Blaspheme maybe, but I think Scherzer is the best pitcher in the NL right now.

    John Beasley 13 hours 20 min ago view
  • Maddon was pimping Russell for Gold Glove honors recently as a manager should do...

    Here's some defensive numbers:

    Fangraphs

    1. Crawford (22.2)
    2. Seager (16.9)
    3. Cozart (14.2)
    4. Hechavarria (13.5)
    5. Russell (12.4)

    Baseball Reference

    1. B. Crawford 2.3
    2. Russell 2.0
    3. Hechavarria 1.7
    4. N. Ahmed 1.6
    5. Z. Cozart 1.5

    .....

    13.C. Seager 0.7

    Traditional stats

    Crawford

    .978 FP, 11 E, 333 A, 162 PO, 562 Chances, 4.27 RF, 72 DP Turned

    Russell

    Rob G. 13 hours 54 min ago view
  • Let me guess: Land of Contusion? Puppet Prez Reagan mistakenly blows the world up due to a bum thumb?

    Eric S 16 hours 49 min ago view
  • Favorite Genesis video

    https://youtu.be/QHmH1xQ2Pf4

    jacos 17 hours 18 min ago view
  • Twitterverse reporting that Almora's examination by a hand specialist went okay, it's still just a hand contusion.

    Eric S 17 hours 58 min ago view
  • Attaboy, Eloy! Jimenez named Midwest League MVP and Best Prospect.

    Gonzalez and Morrison also honored.

    VirginiaPhil 23 hours 18 min ago view