Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer really do love them some pitching depth.

The duo has inquired about Washington Nationals starter John Lannan, who didn’t make the Nats’ Opening Day rotation. Nationals manager Davey Johnson recently said Lannan would not be traded, but GM Mike Rizzo was a bit more gray: “The last thing I told [Lannan] was, ‘You’re going to help us in the big leagues this year or someone else in the big leagues this year.'”

Lannan, 27, is in his second year of arbitration-eligibility, and was recently demoted to AAA. His demotion was something of a surprise, given his past success and big-league contract. The Nationals decided instead to go with Ross Detwiler in the rotation to start the year, seeing the possible upside in Detwiler as higher than Lannan (if this sounds like a parallel to Randy Wells and Jeff Samardzija, it should). Lannan subsequently requested a trade (something you almost never hear about in baseball), and I imagine that the Cubs – like many teams – inquired, sensing an opportunity to buy low.

For that reason, I’m not sure how much this rumor has in terms of a deal getting done, even if it’s almost certainly an accurate rumor.

And then you’ve got to consider whether trading for Lannan makes any sense for the Cubs.

Unless the Cubs are interested in adding Lannan – a career starter who makes $5 million this year – to be a reliever, I can state unequivocally that adding Lannan would be the precursor to another trade, or would, itself, be a part of a larger trade. How can I be so sure? Well, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Paul Maholm are not going anywhere, with respect to the rotation. The Cubs are thrilled with Chris Volstad’s upside as a starter, so it’s hard to see him being bounced from the rotation. And then there’s Jeff Samardzija, the guy who worked all offseason to become a starter, and in whom the Cubs had enough faith as a starter to justify sending Randy Wells to AAA. Where would Lannan go?

The answer is nowhere. Not unless another starter or two (considering Randy Wells is just sitting there at AAA) is going to be traded. Perhaps the Cubs would try to spin Lannan off for a prospect or two (ones in whom the Nats don’t have interest for whatever reason).

That is all to say that there are ways that trading for John Lannan could make some sense for the Cubs (and, I’ve said for a long time that I think we’re going to see this front office try to make the rotation more left-handed as time goes on, because of the way Wrigley Field plays for left-handed hitters (it’s like Coors Field for lefties)), but only if it is paired with another move or two.

As for whom the Cubs would give up, the obvious name is Marlon Byrd. The Nats have been looking for a center fielder for some time, and Byrd is a good one, in the final year of his deal (in which he’ll make $6.5 million). Straight up, Lannan has quite a bit more value than Byrd, but if the Cubs ate some of Byrd’s salary, it could make some sense. I have a hard time seeing the Cubs giving up valuable prospects to acquire Lannan given their already-existing glut of back-end starter types.

  • brian

    He can be a long man in the pen/ backup starter if needed

    • Brett

      So can Randy Wells. Or Rodrigo Lopez. Or Casey Coleman. Or Travis Wood.

      I don’t see a reason to add a $5 million career starter (and an above-average one) as a reliever.

      • MichiganGoat

        Exactly unless other moves are in the works.

        • Sam

          I’ve heard Gorzelanny and Byrd mentioned with Lannan too. Im guessing that they may want to add lefty bullpen depth. But if you bring in someone like Lannan you almost have to give him an opportunity to start. Maybe they are considering moving Samardzjia back to the bullpen… Who knows but I do like that the Cubs are trying to add lefties though.

          • Luke

            I have a hard time believing they are considering moving Samardzija back to the pen before he has made a single start this season.  That seems a little too reactionary for this front office.

            I agree, though, the trend towards lefties is a good one.

          • Eric

            Yeah, I remember Hendry attempting to get “more left handed” and that worked out well.

            • Luke

              When did Hendry try to load up on left handed starting pitchers?

              • Eric

                Oh I was just joking. I agree that we need at least another lefty in the pen and having another southpaw starter would be great. Just all this “getting more left handed” talk bring back some bad memories.

              • art

                left handed batters as louie wanted, lol.

  • Adam

    I’d be all for this kind of trade – Byrd for Lannan – can never have enough starting pitchers, especially lefties.

    • MichiganGoat

      True but you can only have 25 men on the bench and flipping Byrd for him does not open up a spot for another OF.

      • njriv

        Byrd has our only RBI!

        • Steve

          njriv, that made me LOL, and i don’t usually do that!!!

          • wilbur

            Did same thing. Great comment.

        • Goatbuster

          I wasted good beer LOLing about that comment.

          • hardtop

            dude, drinking beer at 3:51 central? happy hour must come early at your house.

            let me see if i get this? LOLing= laughing out loud…….. ing?

            just joshin’ you, goatbuster.   enjoy! im about 1 hour and 9 minutes behind you as far as malted beverage consumption.

            go cubs

  • MichiganGoat

    I do not if we traded him straight up for Byrd we have a roster issue: who plays center? It doesn’t open up a spot for Campana or Sapplet. If we do make that move another move would have to follow or as Brett said it Lannan would be immediately traded for some prospects- basically a three person trade.

  • Aesa

    Reed Johnson can play center until Jackson makes the move up. Why not do a straight up trade, Byrd will be gone after the year anyways.

  • Crockett

    I strongly disagree with the idea that Lannan has more value than Byrd, straight up. If you delve into Lannan’s statistics, you realize his ERA was a complete aberration and that his other stats were quite below what you’d want for an SP. The Nationals will find a buyer once injuries start piling up around the majors, but Byrd, right now, certainly holds more value as a average regular who can play adequate CF.

    • Brett

      I strongly disagree with your disagreement (and I didn’t even look at Lannan’s ERA – just his ERA+, which suggests he’s been slightly above average, though I could make the argument that even an average lefty starter in his prime and under control for two years is worth more than an aging, average, one-year center fielder). I’m not saying Lannan is particularly valuable, relative to any number of other theoretically available starters (for example, I’d rather have Randy Wells). But I don’t think Byrd has a huge amount of value.

      Lannan’s an odd sabermetric bird, by the way – his early-career BABIP suggests he was just lucky (repeatedly), and his FIP/xFIP reflect that. When his BABIP regressed, so did his performance. But then last year, his BABIP was pretty close to average, and he had a good year. So … maybe he’s better than his advanced stats suggest? Is the Nats’ defense crazy good, or something?

      • Crockett

        I disagree with…you! And yes,the Nationals had a top-5 defense last year with their infield defense the best in the majors.

  • Luke

    I’m not sure Washington is all that desperate to deal for a center fielder.  Harper will be up no later than mid-June, baring an injury.  Do they really want to trade a left handed starter for a two month rent-a-player?

    • Brett

      Byrd’s value isn’t just as a starting center fielder for a couple months – given his skill set, he’d probably be the best fourth outfielder in baseball, outside of Gerardo Parra. That, too, has value, particularly on a team with playoff aspirations.

      (Also, and correct me if I’m wrong, I thought the Nats weren’t crazy about playing Harper in CF?)

  • hardtop

    We have enough number 6/7 pitchers on this team.  What we need to win this year is offense. What we need to win in future years is offense and a true top of the rotation pitching talent.  As Crockett pointed out, Lannan isn’t nearly as good as some of his numbers and most of his numbers aren’t that good.  I’ll be disappointed if they don’t hang on to Byrd as a bargaining chip further down the road to aquire a better skill set.  Ill be equally disappointed if they give anything for Lannan than another 6/7 pitcher or a potential bottom of the rotation prospect.

  • Andrew

    I think it’s clear that the cubs wont take Lannan but as part of a three team trade where essentially the cubs trade byrd for prospects. That way Nationals get byrd who they want and get rid of Lannan who they have no room for. Maybe this just better facilitates a trade involving byrd which is fine by me.

    Also does anyone else hate today also. We get some exciting cubs baseball for once and then we have to wait a whole day for more baseball. I’m writing a letter to selig to make the baseball season 365 games every year. They get an off day every fourth year.

    • wernert

      I feel so much the same way that I think you should check and make sure we aren’t twins. Today is the worst.

      • art

        lol, that’s funny.

  • Steve

    Um…as an aside, where the hell did the Reds come up with 255 million for Votto?

    • CubFan Paul

      They’ll be looking to bail in a few years just like the Rangers on ARod

    • Eric

      It’s internet money.

      • Brett

        Shhh. Don’t tell.

  • Steve

    I wonder how they are going to sign Phiilps now….. hmmmmmmmm….

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    I personally would rather have Ringo Starr or Paul McCartney. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    I don’t understand how anybody can argue that Volstad is valuable, but Lannan isn’t. They pitched in the same division, had nearly identical stats, and Lannan is a lefty. I not saying either is more or less valuable, but if I had to choose, give me Lannan. I would still rather have Wells over both.

    • Brian

      Volstad is younger, has much much much better pure stuff, strikes out more guys per 9, walks less guys per 9, and has a similar ground ball rate (the only thing Lannan has going for himself).

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        I’m tired of this “younger” argument. Give me a break. If you keep a good farm system, age of current team shouldn’t matter. You should always take the better player, no matter what their ages are. If you think a 25 year old Volstad is the better pitcher, fine, but don’t mention age. Jamie Moyer threw his first career pitch to Babe Ruth, and is still pitching and still can be a better pitcher then anybody we have not named Garza or Dempster.

      • hardtop

        Other than this ^, I guess my question is: what difference does that make?  we are not talking about choosing between volstad or Lannan. we already have Volstad, as a side effect of off-loading Z, something Ricketts more or less said had to happen.  If Lannan had been on the marlins or if the nationals had wanted Z, we might be comparing the two.  but in this case, the comparison has nothing to do with the conversation.  If you think they are equal in value to the team, the question is why would we go out an get Lannan when we already have his equal in Volstad?  To that I would say  “good question”.  Your initial question is irrelevant and an obvious attempt at creating new avenues in which to bash Volstad.  Jesus man, are you a Cubs fan or not?  Why don’t you see how the kid pitches in his first 4 or 5 starts before you call out the lynch mob.

        • Jay Anderson Jr

          I wasn’t bashing Volstad. Read the other post below. I just don’t understand saying Lannan has no value and Volstad does. I don’t dislike Volstad, I also don’t think he’s a good pitcher, average at best, about the same way I feel about Lannan. I only stated he has more value to us because he’s a lefty. Never once did I bash Volstad in a statement today. I guess I won’t root against him, but can’t say I’m rooting for him. If Wells comes up, pitches horrible and gets traded or sent back down, then I’ll be ok at that point with Volstad. I just think Wells should have the first chance to fell.

          • DocPWimsey

            Well, if anything, then Volstad has somewhat greater value than Lannan. Both are essentially the same for groundballs and walks. Volstad has been significantly better at K’s, however. By comparison, Wells is significantly worse than either of them for groundballs, but significantly better than Lannan at walks or Ks.

            That makes Volstad the clear winner of the 3 (he’s not significantly worse than either in any category) and Lannan the loser (significantly worse than Volstad & Wells in 1 or 2 of the 3 main categories).

            Lannan might have higher trade value than Wells, however, as more and more GMs are becoming very cognizant of the importance of high GB rates.

            • Jay Anderson Jr

              Now that argument I can agree with Doc. That is indeed the case. The only reason I compared him to Volstad is when I looked up his stats, the pitcher who we had that most resembled his is Volstad. It wasn’t to bash. I included Wells because below of that statement Brett made above about having Wells. Being objective, I even said he had more value then Wells.

    • TWC

      Jay, I’m beginning to think you might not like Volstad.  ###

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        I personally see even value in both guys, honestly, and honestly just slightly less(if any at all) then I do in Wells(don’t tell anybody I said that). I prefer Wells because of his career Cubs status( I use career Cub instead of TRUE Cub) . I just don’t understand how guys are so quick to say one will be good and the other has no value. Also, if Volstad strikes out more guys and gives up fewer walks as stated by Brian, but has a slightly higher ERA, doesn’t that technically make him a worse pitcher then Lannan.

        • hansman1982

          No, because ERA is partially dependent on the park you pitch in and the defense behind you. If you have 4 guys with the range of Castro on the infield you can afford to give up a ton of ground balls, wereas if you have 4 Aramis Ramiri around the infield a lot of those ground balls are going to turn into base hits.

          • Jay Anderson Jr

            Ok. I see. I agree. My argument was that if you are striking out more, you are allowing less balls in play, and yet you still allow as many hits. That’s means you have better stuff, but Its also more predictable. It also usually indicates good movement, but less separation from your slowest pitch to your fastest pitch.

            If Lannan is available, I can see why we would inquire. I think his Lefty pitching arm, from a baseball perspective, makes him more valuable then both in Wrigley.

  • Steve

    I’m going to Chattanooga tongiht to watch Mcnutt…. Struck pitched a gem last night…he STRUCK out 10 batters!!!
    Id sure like a minor league recap with details that I could follow>>>/// ???

    • Luke

      Should be one up later this morning.

      • Steve

        Can’t wait to read your recaps
        if you want, I’ll take notes and try and get some good footage of Mcnutt. That AT&T Park in Chattanooga is AWESOME.

        • Luke

          Even if you don’t take notes/pictures/etc., any impressions you have after the game are more than welcome.

  • jim

    Lannan starts and long hair goes to pen where he belongs.

    • rcleven

      Have to agree with your assessment. After yesterdays diabolical it looks like setup and closer look pretty weak. Move spell check into the setup roll and keep your finger’s crossed with Marmol.

  • Norm

    all day training, come out for lunch break, and see the Cubs interested in Lannan? meh. Not a fan.

  • Cory

    I can’t see shark going back to the pen unless he struggles through his 1st 5 or 6 starts the guy earned his spot that be a real slap in the face to a guy that worked so hard the last 2 years and its only been one game we still have dollis for the 8th if wood can’t snap back. That being said I would love to know what kind of potential prospects we could get if we did move lannan the guys young and has had a couple of decent years there’s know reason be couldn’t be a 3 or 4 starter on a NL team or a 4/5 in the AL has anyone heard what kind of other offers the Nats have gotten for him or even who there potential trade partners could be?

  • edgar

    its looking like theo and jed are more inclined to trading garza and/or demp this year. depending on the return and the date of the trade(s) it looking like they are looking for a back up plan. I think that if they do get a trade for those guys they are looking to see how the rotation would be like. throw in a randy wells trade and the rotation doesnt look good. like someone said we still dont know what shark volstad and maholm can do. the rotation would look like shark volstad maholm twood and coleman or lopez. I think they are just looking for a back up plan in case the prospects we get are not ready.

  • Rooster

    Tired of this trade talk with Demp and Garza. Dempster should be resigned after this year to a 2 year deal. He won’t break the bank for us and he’s a great leader. Garza isn’t going to cost the Cubs a ton right now so give a chance to make an impact here. He was one of the unluckiest pitchers last year. Why don’t you people talk about the draft coming up in June??? All this trade talk is just dull after 4 months of it. Grabbing Rizzo was huge for the Cubs. Trading our two best starting pitchers for ‘prospects’ is just silly.

    Dumping or trading Coleman…AMEN. We have zero prospects in the top 75 starting pitchers in the minors. DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT! How can we trade SP when we have zero waiting in the wings. Get rid of Wells, Coleman (puked in my mouth), Byrd, Sorry, etc. I have an idea let’s draft some pitchers in JUNE, sign Soler, and then keep rakin’ em in at the Dominican Plaza….oh yeah, have some more Cubans sign next year and I’ll be a believer. Until then, 3 BBs is all we’ll get.

  • Ryan

    Well any pitcher they draft in June won’t be in the Majors for at least 2 years anyway. Part of the reason people are talking about trades is to get minor league talent into the system. With the new rules in the CBA that limit draft and international spending the only way to majorly increase talent in the system is thru trades. While most people want the Cubs to win they also look at it and say that it maybe better to bite the bullet this year and trade Demp and Garza both who may get a high upside SP atleat in deal

    • DocPWimsey

      That being written, Theo & Jed prefer college talent to high school talent, which has a couple of effects. One, they will draft guys 2-3 years away instead of 5-6 years away. Two, the new CBA actually reduces the leverage of college players who are not also drafted by the NFL or NBA. First round picks in particular cannot hold out for huge dollars (a tactic Scott Boras used more than once) and wait for the next draft: the CBA just limited how much they can get.

      So, the potential to quickly improve through the draft has not been that radically altered. What will be altered is the potential to “sneak” in high schoolers, as the signing limits will make the football scholarships a better offer at this point.

      • Ryan

        I think your going to see more teams taking college talent than HS because of the limit of $ that can be spent in the draft

  • Ivy Walls

    Got to say this is the obvious one. Cubs could trade both Byrd and Wells for Lannon and Gorz, turnaround and then trade Gaza to a team they know is looking for a top starter for prospects. Cubs get a bullpen arm in Gorz, a capable starter who is 27 years old who is 50% cheaper than Garza and is left handed. The prospects are the real key here, all others is just what Epstein-Hoyer have said, the plan.

  • Keith

    I suggested this 2 weeks ago and everybody was up in arms over it. If you want to get young then why would you not make this trade? They need a centerfielder bad, Byrd is probably not going to play much if and when Jackson is called up this year and we need youth and more (proven) pitching depth. Byrd is gone after this year no matter what and probably before the end of the year. He has no future with the Cubs, good guy but that doesn’t plan into the Cubs future. Lannan is under team control has shown nothing but success at the major league level, is a lefty and you can never have too many starting pitchers.

    • Jeff

      I’m not worried about starting pitching, it’s the bullpen I’m worried about….

      I was a big dissenter in trading Marshall back in December, looks like this trade is really going to come back to haunt us.

      Marshall was proven, the three we got in return aren’t. Can’t believe the three year deal he signed with Cincy…ugh, like we couldn’t afford that, your kidding me.

      Stupid Ivy league boy!!! Your not that much of a wonder kid! Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!

      • DocPWimsey

        Starting pitching is always a much bigger concern than the bullpen. Teams make post-season with shaky bullpens: but they almost never make it with shaky starting pitching. What makes bad teams bad is bad starting pitching: the Cubs in particular were awful last year, as demonstrated by the incredible number of runs they allowed in the first inning.

        Now, if you have good (but not great) starting pitching and a good (but perhaps not great) offense, then the bullpen becomes important: now you are in a position where a couple of wins is the difference between a nice season and post-season. The Reds might be good enough where Marshall can make the difference. The Cubs are not. However, if Wood can be returned to form, then the Cubs will be a big step to where they need to be to compete.

        • Jeff

          I disagree

          1. I don’t think our starting pitching is that bad.

          2. The league average pitcher will give you 6 innings and 3 to 5 runs against.

          3. There are only a few dominate pitchers, like maybe 10 and your paying 20 million a year for them.

          4. The value now is depth, top to bottom, not star pitching…look at Philly last year.

          They had the best starters, didn’t get them to the world series.

          Our problem will be demoralized starters who tank out because the manager will leave them in too long for fear of going to the bullpen.

          in “planning for the future” they have weakened what was a strong point in bullpen depth. They have traded sure things and not replaced them via free agency, we have alot of question marks back there now.

          • DocPWimsey

            Last year, the Cubs starting pitching was among the worst in the majors. That had to be improved: and Marshall’s trade was an attempt to do that.

            As for the Phillies not making the WS despite their starters, that is irrelevant. They won 102 games (the most in MLB) because of their starters. They lost the first round because the Cardinals had been a much better team than the Phils for a month (largely due to improved starting pitching and hitting from the Cards against a big offensive decline by the Phillies).

            The problem with looking at bullpens is that people look at close games and think: “the bullpen blew/saved the game!” OK: but that game is close because of the starting pitching, which is many more innings of the game. That’s why worrying about the bullpen before worrying about starting is worrying about pennies when you owe pounds.

            • Luke

              Bleacher Nation: Where bullpen debates involve currency conversion tables.

              • DocPWimsey

                The Brits have pennies! They have pictures of the Queen from about 100 years ago when she actually was good looking. (Who knew?) Hence the phrases, “pennies on the pound….” and “penny-wise, pound-foolish.” Worrying about your bullpen before you straighten out your starting pitching is a classic case of “penny-wise, pound-foolish”: you are worrying about 1 or 2 innings out of every 4th or 5th game instead of worrying about 6-7 innings in every game.

                • Ben

                  The Brits call them pence not pennies and they are worth1.59 cents….sorry I am a currency trader (note I did not say a good one)

            • Jeff

              “Last year, the Cubs starting pitching was among the worst in the majors. That had to be improved: and Marshall’s trade was an attempt to do that.”

              And a poor attempt at that….why was the pitching bad last year? Because the # 4 and 5 starters were out and they had no back-up for these guys.

              So our response was to use our excess of relievers to get what?

              Cashner for Rizzo…ok
              Carpenter for Compensation…not good
              Marshall for Wood…really not good
              Samardzija for rotation….good for rotation
              Wood coming off of injury…limited use…not good
              Marmol coming off a bad year, headed toward another one…not good

              What did we do to replace the bullpen depth?
              A rule 5 draftie
              A couple of wavier wire pick ups
              A few minor league signees

              It’s okay if you trade away some of your strength, just replace it.

              We now have the reverse problem from last year, plenty of starting depth and not enough bullpen arms..

              Balance was needed

              • DocPWimsey

                You don’t get a starting staff as bad as the Cubs last year from the #4 & #5 starters. It was a team effort, although the peripherals suggest that it was bad luck in Dempster’s case.

                And, no, it is not remotely close to being balanced: relievers are pennies on the pound next to starters. Starters pitch many more innings and thus have a far, far greater affect on how many games you win. Again, pounds vs. pennies here…..

                • Jeff

                  How many games did Garza leave with a lead only to watch it blown?

                  He would have been alot better than 10 and 10 and have gotten more than 9 mil in arbitration.

                  Dempster wins 16, Garza wins 16, other three get you 12 to 14 and your in the playoffs.

                  Starting pitching only wins so many games a year, it’s the bullpens who dictates their record.

                  You have to have both.. i don’t think you can prove that starting pitching is “more’ valuable than a quality pen.

                  I’ll take our rotation of Demp @16m Garza@ 9 and three guys at 2 to 4 million over what we had last year any day.

                  Our problem is we now have a better rotation at the expenses of a shitty pen.

                  Some of these guys are very young, too old or mediocre stuff.

                  we have traded or lost all our power arms, Dolis is the only future bright spot.

                  Gone Carpenter, Cashner and Marshall, they throw harder and better than what we have now.

                  And carpenter was a freak, hate to see injury no one can predict

                  • DocPWimsey

                    Cubs bullpen was actually middle of the pack. Indeed, if you look at runs allowed / scored over innings last year, then you’ll see that the Cubs “came back” late in games due to a lower rate of allowing runs late in games and an average rate of scoring runs late in games. Of course, because they gave up so many early runs, the Cubs didn’t play in all that many close games last year (relative to average teams). Remember, playing in a lot of close games is a sign of mediocrity: and the Cubs were not that good.

                    It comes down to this. A team with 2 good starters and 2 bad relievers will do better than a team with 1 good starter and 1 bad starter and 2 good relievers. The first team is getting 12-14 good innings in 18 and 4 bad ones. The latter one is getting 10 good innings in 18 and 8 bad ones. That’s not balanced.

              • Ryan

                Well considering that you have TWood for 4 years and marshall was in his last year and they got 2 other players one who could in the future be a starting 2b it can’t be considered a really bad trade yet. It wasn’t for certain that the cubs could keep marshall and almost for sure they wouldn’t have offered arb because of the new cba.

                • Jeff

                  yet Marshall signs a three yr 12 million deal???

                  I don’t get that???? Like the Cubs couldn’t have offered him that money? They wasted that much on Grabow last year

        • JustSwain

          Sorry Doc, what team made the playoffs with a shaky bullpen? I respectfully disagree. Relief pitching is the most undervalued part of the game, but good teams ALL have good relief corps. Heck the Twins have gone to the playoffs with mediocre starting pitching, led by Carl Pavano for christs sake, and an absolutely lights out bullpen. And they did it with a $60 million dollar payroll. I can’t remember what Arizona’s bullpen was like, but the other 7 teams in the postseason last year all had very good bullpens. The score after 7 innings is not what counts, its the score after 9 that counts. Even with the best rotation in baseball, the Giants wouldn’t be the Giants without Wilson. My biggest disappointment with this years Cubs is that they have such a shoddy bullpen. I think Smardz earned his spot in the rotation, but I was sad to see him leave the pen. All that being said, I agree that Marshall, while valuable, was much more valuable to the Reds than he was to the Cubs, and what we got in return were players whoes value outstrips Marshall. Marshall is an Elite level reliever, but an elite late inning reliever only gets about 5 mil a year, and they are not as uncommon as Cubs Bullpens Past have suggested. Closers are hard to come by, but middle relievers aren’t. For that reason, the Cubs are in a position to retool their bullpen next offseason on the cheap, and if they get a decent starting rotation out of all the pieces they picked up this year then they will have something worth building around. In summary, I disagree about the importance of relief pitching, but I agree the trade made sense.

          • DocPWimsey

            In 2011, the Rays, Cards, Phils and Rangers all ended up in the bottom 15 in MLB in WAR from relievers. Basically, a league-average bullpen would have cost them fewer games than their bullpens, yet they made the playoffs.

            Fielding Independent ERA estimates provides a similar story: the Rays, Tigers and Phils were in the bottom half.

            So, basically about half of the playoff teams had below average bullpens.

            Amusingly, two of the three best bullpens for wins above replacement were the Braves and the Sox, both of whom suffered huge collapses. Both got about 4 extra victories due to their bullpens. (That’s a ton.) The worst were the ‘Stros and Twins: but that was just gasoline on Chernobyl…..

            • JustSwain

              Hmmm, I think those bullpen stats might be a bit misleading. Lets take the 2011 Phillies. They had Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, and Antonio Bastardo with J.C. Romero to get lefties. Thats a pretty good group of players. Bullpen numbers are also not going to reflect that a good bullpen has both good relievers and bad relievers. Good relievers to come in during close games, and bad relievers when the team just needs some innings. I wouldn’t call the Phillies bullpen poor, or even average. It has poor parts, but it has dominating parts as well. I would say the same thing about the other teams up there. The Cards bullpen wasn’t great overall, but Motte, Tallet, and Lynn were all very effective, especially late in the season. The Rangers had Neftali Feliz to shore up the 9th inning, and a few key guys to get to him, and the Rays had a career year for Farnsworth, and Joel Peralta to make up for 30 innings of 6 ERA relief work from J.P. Howell. Looking at a total bullpen ERA is meaningless. It includes guys you want to give a look at, guys whoes ERA you sacrafice to keep other pitchers out of blowouts, etc. The stat I would want to see for those teams is # of games lost by the bullpen. I bet three of those four teams at least are in the top half of that stat. This Cubs bullpen has no one you can count on in a close game. The Phillies had four guys you could count on in a close game. As bad as their overall stats were, they had a good bullpen. With Marshall and Smardz gone, Wood showing his age (its not the years its the mileage), and Marmol unable to find the zone, we have turned a strength into a weakness. That being said, I still agree with your point that a good bullpen is of the most use to a good team.

              • DocPWimsey

                The stats summarize performance. Part of the reason why the Phils bullpen failed to prevent them from winning was that they had the 2nd fewest save opportunities in the NL, tied with the Dodgers. The team with the fewest was at the other tend of the spectrum: the Astros. As a rule, the best teams and the worst teams play the fewest close games (for obvious reasons), which means that the bullpen is least important.

                And it gets down to simple math: the Phils got tons of excellent innings from their starters, which allowed them to use by far the fewest innings from their below-average bullpen. (They needed 25 fewer bullpen innings than the Dodgers with the 2nd fewest, the Dodgers: but the Dodgers were crippled by offense, not starting pitching.)

                Indeed, this should show the importance of NOT using your bullpen: the fewest relief innings were by the Phillies, Dodgers, DBacks, Brewers and Cards. I.e., the 4 playoff teams called on their bullpens least often. Combine good offense with not using your bullpen, and you can make post-season.

  • Ryan

    Quit judging the Marshall trade already. Let’s atleast get thru the year and see what the players the Cubs do. Had Madson not got injured Marshall wouldn’t be the closer and the contract would be questioned if he isn’t dominat

  • Ryan

    What is the next roster move the Cubs make. 25 man or 40 man

  • die hard

    yep…just keeping on throwing those wads of chewing gum against the wall…one may stick

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