Tagged: Carlos

Cubs win a series, but lose an Ace

The Chicago Cubs offense finally seems to have broken out of their deep slumber, as for the third straight day they won a ball game while putting up more then enough offense. One would think that all would be right in the world for Cub fans now that the offense has woken up. However, as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another one usually opens. Well, the door to the Cubs offensive slump has seemingly closed, but another door opened up today, which could leave Cub fans with the cold sweats.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Cubs offense has been struggling to even score one run in a game on a consistent basis. They had a very long string of games without scoring, then followed that up with an offensive explosion. That explosion only lasted a day before the slump kick in once again. This trend went on for a few games until the series with the Florida Marlins began. In the first game, fans would have thought everything was right when Milton Bradley and Mike Fontenot hit back to back home runs, but that would be where the offense stopped that day. The next three games though, the Cubs scored at least six runs in winning efforts each night. You could possibly write things off to them taking advantage of a struggling ball club in the Marlins, or you can say that they are finally starting to put everything together. I chose to be the optimist here and say they are finally putting everything together.

While Bradley continues to struggle at the plate (and I will get back to him in a bit), Derrek Lee seems to be coming out of his slump as he belted his second home run of the series, this time a Grand Slam. While Lee is seemingly snapping out of his funk, another hitter is emerging as a serious threat in the middle of the order. After blasting another ball over the wall, Fontenot now has five home runs. He is showing that he belongs in the discussion of the power threats in the Cubs lineup. One player who does not look as though he belongs, is Bradley, and fans are starting to let him know they are not happy.

After striking out in his final at bat of the day, he was showered with a loud chorus of boos from the crowd. Cub fans are getting frustrated with his lack of production, and are getting tired of waiting for him to show up. Part of me has got to wonder if they are showing their displeasure with him only because of his lack of production, or if there is another motive behind the booing. Cub fans are not stupid, not by any means. They all know that Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa were not re-signed because they needed the money they would have gotten to pay Bradley’s contract. While neither Wood (1-1 6.00 ERA 5 for 5 in Save opportunities) or DeRosa (.235 BA 5 HR 19 RBI) are having stellar years, fans are still unhappy that they were sent packing ending their Cub careers. Both could possibly be reasons why fans are showing their displeasure of Bradley’s lack of production. No matter what the reason is, he needs to step up his contributions fast, before the fans turn on him completely. Bradley will start hitting, he is too good of a ball player not to. Only question is will he be able to get on track before he becomes the most hated man to every play for the Cubs.

Okay, I have put off the bad news long enough. With the good news of the offense snapping out of their funk, you had to know that bad news wouldn’t be too far off. In the top of the fifth inning Carlos Zambrano lead off the inning, and for some unknown reason he tried bunting for a base hit. To his credit, Zambrano laid down a perfect bunt and beat out the throw to first base. The only problem is, when he was beating out the throw to first, he strained his hamstring and put his next start in jeopardy. If we are lucky, he will only miss his next start. I know that Zambrano prides himself on being the complete ball player, and trust me, that he is. I am sure you have all heard of the “five tool player” in baseball, but Zambrano is a six tool player because he is also a dominating pitcher. But I have got to question his reasoning in laying down a leadoff bunt. While he was trying to help the team in a tie ball game, he might have inadvertently done more harm then good. He was taking to the hospital to be examined, and results will be known tomorrow. Hold your breath Cub fans, because losing Zambrano for a significant period of time will be a fatal blow; one we might not be able to recover from.

Well, to wrap things up, we won three games in a row, and score 20 runs in those three games. The offense is looking better, and the bullpen is being steady. They aren’t throwing great, but they are not throwing too bad. At least not in the last three games anyway. This season has already been a very bumpy ride, and I have a feeling that things may just be getting started with bumpier rides still to come.

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Heilman, Peavy, Marmol, and thoughts in  general

Well, today the Chicago Cubs traded away Ronny Cedeno to the Seattle Mariners for troubled relief pitcher Aaron Heilman. I know what you are thinking. Who cares about Cedeno, he was a bench player at best. Yeah, I know he was. I also said that I fully expected him to be traded before or during Spring Training as the Cubs bench was overflowing with players. Both Cedeno and Felix Pie were likely to be traded since they had no position, and were out of options. Both have been traded in the past week. Will they succeed with actual playing time, or will they continue to hang around in mediocrity like they did while spending time with the Cubs. That is none of my concern anymore, and I wish them both luck with their new teams.

However, what did catch me by complete surprise today, was the pitcher that was included in that trade for Heilman. Garret Olson, who was the pitcher that we got from the Orioles when we traded away Pie, was in the deal with Cedeno for Heilman. In case you are wondering why I am surprised that he was included, as I have mentioned in other blogs, everyone was sure that he was going to be part of a package for a deal for San Diego pitcher Jake Peavy.  Now that deal does not look anywhere near as sure of a deal as it did even 8 hours ago. If we do not make the deal for Peavy, then just about every other trade we have made this off season makes absolutely no sense at the moment.

While we are talking about the possibility of trading for Peavy, no matter how likely or unlikely that still is, I am not sure if I really want him anymore on the Chicago Cubs. Don’t get me wrong, if the Cubs trade for him, I will be ecstatic. He is a great pitcher who will make any pitching staff better. But after the news today that Jon Garland signed a one year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks for about $6 Million dollars, it makes me think. Instead of trading away all of our young prospects for a former Cy-Young winning pitcher, why not save our prospects and a hell of a lot of money by signing one of the many talented starting pitchers that are still available in free agency. Here is a list of starting pitchers that are still looking for work

Kris Benson. Paul Byrd, Tom Glavin, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Jason Jennings, Braden Looper, Pedro Martinez, Mark Mulder, Odalis Perez, Oliver Perez, Ben Sheets, and Randy Wolf.

There are more I believe, but these are the bigger names that are still available. Anyone on that list look like they would be a good fit for the Cubs? They will not win any Cy-Youngs, or likely not anyway, but they will come a lot cheaper then Peavy will next year, and if you sign them to a multi year deal, they will be cheaper every one of those years as well. Plus you get to keep your prospects for any mid-season deal to acquire a player that the Cubs may need. I say we keep our prospects, save some money and sign one of these pitchers to a one year deal at very least. Our pitching staff will still be one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball, and we will have bullets in the gun incase we need them later in the season.

Anyway, back to the trade that brought this blog up. I am not sure what to make of this move, as I don’t know what to make of Heilman just yet. He was traded twice this offseason. The Mets traded him to the Mariners in December, and now he has been traded once again, this time his stop is here in Chicago. What was he brought here for? Starter? Reliever? Even though he says that he wants to be a starter, I don’t believe that he was brought here to do that job. Sure, he will be given a shot to win the fifth starters spot, though it may be more of a show then a real competition.

Heilman last started a game in the Majors in 2005, and has been working out of the bullpen ever since. He has 25 starts in his six year career with the Mets. In his career, he has a win-loss record of 22-33 and has an ERA of 4.24, not very stellar numbers at all. But those numbers are not the only thing that causes concern. Heilman was the most abused relief pitcher in all of baseball. Followed by someone us Cub fans are very familiar with, Carlos Marmol. That’s right, we have the two most abused relief pitchers in all of baseball from 2008 on our team. 

I would like to thank Metstoday.com for the following information.
Look at the numbers and judge for yourself.

His 1486 pitches thrown were tied for the second-most in MLB among “pure” relievers — pitchers who did not make any starts. Marmol led all relievers in pitches with 1505.

Here is a chart that shows how many games they each appeared in per moth, followed by how many pitches he threw in that month.

Pitcher     AprG/P  MayG/P  JunG/P  JulG/P  Aug G/P  SepG/P

Heilman    16/308   10/247   14/238  16/299  15/293     7/101
Marmol     14/277  15/293    12/231 12/235  16/244     12/225

Heilman was essentially pushed to the upper limits in April — you can blame Randolph for that — and he may never have recovered. To Randolph’s credit, he did back off on using Heilman in May and was limiting his pitches in June. However, once Manuel took over, it was right back to abuse, appearing 16 times in July and 15 times in August.
 
While it could be argued that Marmol was abused more than Heilman, it should be noted that Marmol’s highest pitch count in any one month was 293, and second-highest was 277. Heilman had highs of 308, 299, and 293 ? again, these are numbers more comparable to long relievers. Still, it would seem that Marmol was at the very least the second-most abused pitcher in MLB next to Heilman, based on his frequency of use

Lets look at how many times there were used on various days rest

Pitcher     0 days 1 day 2 days 3 days
 
Heilman      26*     21     18       11
Marmol       27       30     11       9

Finally, Aaron Heilman threw 26 or more pitches in an outing 18 times, including two instances in which he threw 51 pitches or more.

Of particular consideration is the fact that Aaron Heilman was slated to be a setup man or 7th inning middle reliever. As a result, he was conditioned for this role from the beginning of spring training. As such, we can presume that preseason preparation program was optimized for him to pitch one inning at a time, 2-3 times per week. The sum total of his actual workload in the season, however, was more comparable to that of a long reliever / spot starter. In fact, the only relievers in 2008 who threw more pitches than Heilman and Marmol were those who made at least a few starts, and who were used almost exclusively in long relief roles: Chan Ho Park, Hong Chih Kuo, Boof Bonser, and Carlos Villanueva.

But then what about Marmol, who threw 19 more pitches than Heilman and had perhaps the best season of any setup man / middle reliever in baseball?

Unlike Heilman, however, Marmol was never used in both ends of a doubleheader. He threw more than 26 pitches in an outing 17 times (compared to Heilman’s 16), but never more than 51 (Heilman did it twice).

Also of concern is the fact that both Marmol and Heilman rely heavily on a mid-90s fastball. Generally speaking, throwing at a higher velocity takes more toll on a pitcher’s body.

It has to be understood that these numbers reflect the most abused pitchers in all of MLB — the vast majority of middle relievers are used 10-12 times per month, 160-220 pitches per month. Total pitches for the year for a typical middle reliever is anywhere from 650-1100.

Thank you again to metstoday.com for those stats and passages.

Well, just wanted to get these thoughts out there. What do you think?