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Why I Think Kerry Wood Can Win the Closer Job
Posted by Chris Liss at 3/12/2008 12:51:00 AM
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According to manager Lou Piniella, there's a three-way race for the closer job in Chicago between Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and Bobby Howry. At this point, Piniella hasn't tipped his hand too much, and most pundits believe that Marmol, who had an ungodly strikeout rate late year, has yet to be scored on this spring and who struck out the side today, will win the job. Marmol's been drafted earlier in every league I've been in, and Wood, despite pitching a scoreless inning today, is sporting a 5.20 ERA this spring.

But I think Wood is the savvier play at this point because he'll come cheaper, and as long as he holds up and pitches well, there are several reasons to think he'll win the job:

(1) It's a great comeback story, one that could inspire a team that has seen its two great pitching phenoms fall apart over the last several years (Mark Prior is trying to come back with the Padres sometime in April). To have Wood pitch well in a prominent role would salvage some of that lost promise.

(2) Wood, unlike Marmol, is a veteran, and so he's got seniority - first dibs on the more prominent role if it's close. (Bobby Howry actually has the most closing experience of the three, and is also a vet, but his early season struggles last year and his bad spring, in my opinion, make him a distant third).

(3) Wood touched 98 mph on the gun earlier this spring and is feeling healthy.

(4) Marmol's 2007 numbers were aided by a low hit rate and an especially low home run rate. Like Howry he gives up too many fly balls, and he walks too many batters.

(5) The only reason not to anoint Marmol the closer right now is to wait and see how Wood holds up and how his command is. Wood is really the only unknown in the equation - Howry is who he is, and Marmol is a fireballer with unhittable stuff - when he can locate it. Wood's health, command and ability to pitch on back to back days is unknown. Why else wait to name the closer unless they were waiting on Wood?

(6) Wood has the right demeanor to be a closer. He's a big, tough, competitive pitcher that comes after hitters.

(7) If Wood does get the job and gets hurt or fails, it's not the end of the world - they can just plug in Marmol at that point, i.e., the downside of trying Wood out is fairly minimal.

I'm not saying Wood will definitely be the guy - but I do think that if he pitches well over the next 10 days and shows he's completely healthy, the Cubs would be inclined to give him the first shot. And given where the two players are going in drafts, I'd rather invest in Wood over Marmol.


Comments....

I can see two or three guys in Chicago with double-digit saves by the end of the year. The big question on Wood is obviously health-related and can he go back-to-back nights.
Posted by vtadave at 3/12/2008 8:31:00 AM
 
I don't think Wood would be able to pitch two or three days in a row on a regular basis. Then you run into a situation where you need a secondary guy to close and an even worse situation if the secondary guy is pitching better than Wood. There's really no statistical reason why having multiple closers wouldn't work, but baseball players have egos, and having the press always asking who the top guy is would take a toll.
Posted by herbilk at 3/12/2008 9:42:00 AM
 
Right, I think that's what they're waiting for - to see if Wood holds up on back to back and occasionally three in a row days. Otherwise, why not make Marmol the closer right now?
Posted by cliss at 3/12/2008 10:03:00 AM
 
I agree with chris that the only logical reason to wait is to see if Wood can handle multiple days, Kerry Wood could get the Papelbon treatment and have predetermined days off in which he would not close even if the team is in a save situation. On those days they could go with Marmol or Howry. I see them keeping Marmol in the setup role, all things being equal, because he has had a lot of success there already. Also naming Wood the closer, I think the Cubs could more control when Kerry Wood does and does not pitch.

Posted by ubahero2252727 at 3/12/2008 4:34:00 PM
 
I love the idea of Wood as the closer being the Cubs homer I am, however, my concern is is "ability" to get too jacked up at times. I remember many occasion when the first inning of his starts went for 20-30 pitches. Lots of gas, but lots of balls and walks too. Needless to say this is the antithesis of what you look for in a closer. If he can harness his emotion and throw strikes at 93-94 and not try to hit 98 I love it. Otherwise, give me Marmol. Forget Howry...when not located, his fastball is akin to Rick Helling. 90MPH and on a rope both toward the plate and on the way out of the ballpark!
Posted by dduckman at 3/12/2008 10:13:00 PM
 
The biggest thing is I think the team Lou/Hendry want Wood to close. His contract is closer incentive laden. They do not want to rely on the young player/Marmol...they would rather see him in the late inning rally stopper role he performed in so valuably last year.
Posted by ChicagoTRS at 3/13/2008 9:23:00 AM
 

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