Blake Parker Getting Some Bullpen Love (James Russell Not) and Other Bullets

james russell cubsTune in for your Blogathon announcement tomorrow. I’m very excited to share the details with you, so I hope you’ll check it out.

  • Reliever Blake Parker got his first big league save last night after recording a million of them in the minors. The 28-year-old has had a long road to this point, reaching AAA just two years after he was drafted back in 2006, and then bouncing around at the upper levels of the minors for three years before getting his shot with the Cubs last year … only to succumb to a stress reaction in his elbow (a la Matt Garza). He was lights out at AAA early this year, so he’s getting another shot.
  • Speaking of which, Dale Sveum was very complimentary of his fill-in closer, and even suggested that Parker could be the new guy at the end if Kevin Gregg is traded in July. “It’d be tough to replace [Gregg],” Sveum told the media, per “He’s done a great job. I guess maybe you could look at [Blake] Parker because he’s done it in Triple-A if those things come to light. You’ve got to use somebody. It’ll be a wait and see situation …. I’m not making an effort of it, [Parker has] just kind of earned it …. He’s done it in Triple-A and his velocity is back. He’s developed a split-finger fastball that’s helped him at this level. He’s deserved to be one of those guys later in innings when we’re winning ballgames.” Now if only someone would ask him why his Twitter handle is “@BlaekParker.”
  • This “James Russell is 0 for 5 in save opportunities” narrative is getting on my nerves. You see it everywhere after he had a rough outing on Friday. The point of saying it is to imply that, despite his obvious success this year, he has blown every single save opportunity he’s received. Stop for a moment. Think about that. Has Russell even been giving five traditional save opportunities? Was Friday’s? No, and no. The blown save stat is complete garbage for non-closers, because, when they enter a game in the later innings (not the 9th) with a lead, they do not have the opportunity to record a save. They have the opportunity to record a “hold,” a stat that virtually no one discusses (and its utility is questionable, as is the “save,” frankly). So, in terms of “save” versus “blown save,” every time Russell enters a game in the 7th or 8th with the lead, he can *only* record a “blown save.” It’s just a silly point to keep making over and over. Russell has a 2.53 ERA, a 1.188 WHIP, and a 3.00 K/BB ratio. Those are the stats that matter.
  • Ryan Sweeney hurt his ribs last night, crashing into the wall to make a catch (Cubs center fielders: don’t make this a thing). Although X-rays were negative, the Cubs are still evaluating the extent of the injury. Hopefully it’s just a bruise, but, either way, I’d expect Sweeney – who’s been awesome – to miss a little time.
  • Cubs pitching prospect Paul Blackburn continues to get the love, this time in the form of a profile on Of particular note, since being drafted in the first round (compensatory) last year, the former high school star has packed on 30 pounds. Assuming it’s all muscle and you know how to handle it in your delivery, that’s definitely going to help him.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

49 responses to “Blake Parker Getting Some Bullpen Love (James Russell Not) and Other Bullets”

  1. Timothy Scarbrough

    You might want to say 1.188 WHIP when talking about Russel.

  2. Oswego chris

    Going to sound kinda Die Hardian here, but I was calling for Parker long ago…

    Nice job on Score Brett…

    1. Die hard

      Careful what you wish for… If he’s all that’s left next yr after purge it may not be pretty

  3. CubsFanSaxMan

    All of the stats concerning Russell (and others) are well and good, but I still believe that “holds” and “saves” are relevant stats. I admit that I am still a bit “old school” in my thinking, but both of those stats tell me that the relief pitcher is doing their job, that being “holding” the other team to no more runs, or “saving” the win.

    1. Timothy Scarbrough

      It isn’t that there is no value in holds and saves, but that they are greatly overvalued by a large number of people.

      1. Rcleven

        They are pretty much inaccurate stats that are used interchangeably by some reporters. If a starter leaves men on base and Russell allows that man to score it is charged to the starter(unfair). If he comes in in the seventh and allows the tying run to score is that a blown save? No. it’s a non hold(unfair again).

        1. Timothy Scarbrough

          Oh I agree, the value of them is very general and limited. They aren’t entirely useless though.

          1. wvcubsfan

            Get out of my head

        2. jt

          Lights out relievers get a lot of saves.
          The stat pretty much affirms what is already known.
          Power is measure of a pulse of energy. Strength is a measure of stability over time. A RP’er who more often prevents inherited runs is worth more than a RP’er who less often prevents inherited runs. I mean, that is his job. He is not there to eat innings. A metric for RP’ers must measure power (getting outs in short order). A metric for starters must measures strength (getting outs over the duration).

          1. Timothy Scarbrough

            Power actually has time in it’s denominator. Power is work over time. P=Fd/T. A pulse of energy would be better demonstrated by impulse.

            1. Professional High A

              BOOM PHYSICS-ED! Although a more general definition of work would have gotten bonus points.

  4. DarthHater

    Begin countdown to announcement that Sweeney has damaged several major internal organs…

    1. Die hard

      Spleendid observation

    2. Jp3

      As long as his hair is unscathed I’m not worried, it alone is worth top 100 prospect talent😜. But yes much like Soler, we always fear the worst. Speaking of, lets not drag this Garza saga out til it’s too late again.

  5. cubfanincardinalland

    Told my wife Sweeney got hurt running into the wall. Her response was, oh no, not the face.

    1. Die hard

      Face would’ve been better — could still play

    2. Rich H

      I had to read that comment to the Wifey and immediately she was like dang it now I need to see a picture.

    3. DarthHater

      ELAINE: Did something happen?

      GEORGE: Well, Tony… took a bit of a tumble

      ELAINE: His face, did something happen to his face?

      KRAMER: Well it all depends on what you mean by… happen

      GEORGE: He…he’s alive

      KRAMER: Yeah

      ELAINE: What happened to his face? Tell me, what happened to his face!

      GEORGE: Well, you see, he slipped, and he landed on a kinda of a…

      KRAMER: Rock.

      GEORGE: Yeah… the ambulance got there very quickly.

      KRAMER: It was a big rock.

      GEORGE: We rode along all the way to the hospital.

      KRAMER: Yeah I sang 99 bottles of beer on the wall.

      (Elaine rushes out)

      1. Die hard

        Only regret…We will never get back the 5 seconds it took to scan and delete that

        1. Jim L

          Step off, Die Hard, just step off.

      2. Internet Random


  6. King Jeff

    The blown save stat is a little misleading, but he has come in and given up the lead 5 times. He is really really good most of the time, but he has bouts of inconsistency, and they have come up more often recently. I still think he’s one of the best specialists in baseball, so I’m not exactly on the bandwagon to chase him out of town.

  7. therealPattyP

    Russell is very good, albeit not dominant. The stat I would use to judge a non closing rp is % of inherited runners scoring. I would also count the times Russell had started an inning with the lead and lost it. A few I’m sure, but when a team as baf as the Cubs have been blown leads are magnified.

  8. JayPaul

    Brett, Just to nitpick a little on Russell. When discussing Samardzija and trade value you stated ( and I agree) FIP is much more relevant than ERA, especially with this org. Relievers ERA, wins, losses, holds, blown saves, and more have all become somewhat obsolete with the introduction of new stats that pinpoint effectiveness.

  9. therealPattyP


  10. wvcubsfan

    Brett would you rather everyone say he’s 11 for 16 in hold/blown save opportunities?

    As I said yesterday, he’s succeeded much more than he’s failed last year and so far this year but this past month has been rougher than most.

    I don’t know if he’s wearing down a little, if there’s a “book” out on him, or if it’s just an anomaly. One thing we do know is at least 16 times he’s had the chance to hold on to a lead. Eleven times he’s left the game with the same lead or greater, and five times he’s left the game without the lead. Now whether or not those numbers mean anything to you or not the last sentence is factual based on those two statistics.

    1. Rcleven

      A lot has to do with the number of chances. As stated last night he is started to be over used.
      He has been used three straight nights. Mans only human. Be interested to see numbers on percentages of appearances to games played.
      He is starting to be used much like Camp was last year. When your more successful it’s the price he is paying.

  11. Bong Kim

    James Russell has 11 holds this season and 5 blown saves. This means that he succeeds 68.75% not to surrender the lead – roughly 2 out of 3 times.

    I’m not sure if he’s a good setup man when he fails 1 out of every 3 times. He is not that good setup man anymore this season, frankly speaking.

    1. Eternal Pessemist

      Also has a lot to do with the bats sucking and never contributing to the rescue from one of those blown/held saves.

  12. Idaho Razorback

    That picture of Sweeny that Brett recently used reminds me of the 1959 Topps card of Randy Jackson. I hate that card.

  13. Jeremy

    Paul Blackburn has reportedly been consistently hitting 95 MPH. If that’s true…That’s a potential frontline starter right there. He could have 2 plus pitches and above average pitch to go along with plus command, make up and athleticism. I’m eager to see what this kid can do.

  14. Eric

    Surprised there isn’t more talk about Blackburn in this thread. Obviously it’s only been a few starts and he is a long way away but the talk of him adding weight and velocity when he already had a reputation of having an advanced approach has me intrigued.

  15. Internet Random

    “Assuming it’s all muscle . . . .”

    If 70% is, he’s done very, very, very well.

    Much more than that, and… well, there are limits to how much muscle natural human physiology will allow a person to pack on.

  16. Bullpen Narratives | World Series Dreaming

    [...] Narrative is a powerful part of the human experience. We are bombarded with more information than it is possible to understand fully, and so we construct narratives to make sense of disparate information. Narratives are a simplification of reality by their very function, and it has become a shorthand used by many to discredit ideas. I have used it in my debates very much the way that Bleacher Nation did today [...]

  17. jim haley

    I’d rather have Marmol in the 7th & 8th than Camp. How many times do we have to look at him blow games. Atleast Marmol produced as a setup guy

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