Thursday, March 24, 2005


Cubs Closer Update

The pitcher slated for the Cubs's closer job, Joe Borowski, is the proud new owner of a non-displaced fracture in his right ulna. The Cubs will most likely give the job to LaTroy Hawkins, which as I've said before, is not what I want to happen. Granted my fantasy team now has a closer for almost two months, but it isn't the result I wanted. Hawkins is by far their best reliever, and since the Cubs will not use him in the Keith Foulke mold (old school style whenever he is needed, not just in the 9th) his value will be greatly decreased to the Cubs. Why not use Ryan Dempster like you planned? Or since you are kicking Glendon Rusch out of the rotation (which I'm as infuriated at as I can be about something like this) to let Dempster have a spot, why not let him have a go at the shiny, overvalued role of closer? How about spring traning NRI Chad Fox? Anyone but Hawkins? I don't understand the need for the "proven" closer tag on teams. Hasn't anyone realized that basically all closers are made, and very few actually come up from the minor leagues with an established closer track record? Why not just make another one? Billy Beane probably would have just made another one by now (Keith Foulke, Billy Koch, Jason Isringhausen, etc.) Closers own the save stat, which is essentially much more useless than most people (and I'm focusing on the media here) gives credit for. Jose Mesa had 43 of them last year. Do you want Jose Mesa on your team?

The Cubs would be much better served to throw Dempster into the closer's role for now, leave Hawkins as the best reliever available for any situation he is needed in, and leave Rusch in the rotation. Next option: Dempster in the rotation, Hawkins as the reliever, Rusch as the closer. With the way Hawkins will be used, it almost seems a waste of resources. If they are that hot to trot for a "proven, established closer" then why not trade for Ugueth Urbina before the Mets snag him, or sign Billy Koch and his 163 career saves to satisfy your urges? I hate to think of the Cubs weakening their chances anymore with something that could be avoided so easily. Who knows, maybe if Kerry Wood gets overworked some more he'll be the closer within a year.

1) Prior
2) Big Z
3) Maddux
4) Rusch
5) Dempster

CL) Wood
Hawkins, Fox, Borowski, Remlinger

Kind of scary in a way actually. I wouldn't want to face him, and he could be used in 2-3 inning situations like an old school 70's handlebar moustache wearing closer. This farm system has some B level pitchers in it, and you might as well give them a shot to crack the rotation if your going to let Dempster and his lack of control have a go at it. I think the Cubs would prosper with Kerry Wood as shutdown reliever/closer. Just something to think about. My main point is there are so many other ways to do this besides giving up your most valuable reliever to the closer role where his use will be limited. Notice I say Kerry Wood would be good for 2-3 innings, keeping his usefulness, possibly adding to it by allowing him to pitch multiple times on a weekly basis. I just had a vision of Dusty Baker using him for 3 innings 12 days in a row though, and then I pictured Will Carroll looking ill thinking about it. Poor Kerry Wood.

Foulke and Koch were established closers before they got to Oakland. Isringhausen was a great find as a closer, but last year Arthur Rhodes was an equally great bust. It's best to have a proven closer. If you can't, well, then you take your chances with whoever. But they've still got to be a good pitcher, and I believe that leaves Ryan Dempster and Glendon Rusch out of the equasion.

Wood OR Prior could be interesting, because maybe closing could keep them healthy.
Rusch is a better pitcher than people give him credit for, and one of the unluckiest pitchers the past few seasons. I agree that Dempster isn't the best pitcher in the world (but if he isn't in the pen where his use can be controlled he's running rampant in the rotation, which frightens me). Proven closers became "proven" and "established" by becoming closers, and that is just what the Cubs might have to do. Foulke was a closer when he went to Oakland, but he was traded for Koch who had a much better season than him previously (but not after) and had success in Oakland and Boston he hasn't had elsewhere. Maybe Beane didn't "make" them, but he sure helped drive their value sky high. Think Danny Kolb, and the Brewers selling high before his stock falls to far.
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