Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue and Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and author of The Juice (the link to purchase that at Amazon is on the right sidebar) joined Dan Scotto and myself for a Cubs roundtable Monday afternoon.
Dan Scotto: When Joe Borowski comes back from the DL (soon), who would you put as the closer: Dempster or Borowski? Or maybe the hated LaTroy Hawkins again at some point?
Al Yellon: Hawkins: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! The weird part about Dempster is that even though they said they were going to give him the chance in spring training, he didn't pitch a single inning there except as a starter.
Will Carroll: Dempster was the planned closer in spring training, so I don't know why you don't give him every opportunity. Borowski is a funny one - here's a guy they found on the scrap heap, yet they don't remember that if you found one, you can probably find another. Dusty's reluctance to use Wuertz is bothersome. He did it (closing) in Triple-A
Al Yellon: I agree about Borowski. And I also think that closing is less about "stuff" than about mental makeup. Hawkins clearly doesn't have it. Put a "9" in the inning column and he loses focus. Plans changed in s/t due to injuries to Prior and Wood. They had to get Dempster in "starters condition"
Marc Normandin: What about Glendon Rusch as a candidate as well? If Dempster cannot handle the job in the pen'?
Al Yellon: No, I like having the lefty starter and Rusch has been very good.
Will Carroll: Too valuable as a swingman
Al Yellon: What about Wood as a closer? It's an intriguing thought.
Marc Normandin: That was actually part of my question, funny you should ask.
Will Carroll:10 million dollar closers are few and far between. I would give Wood every chance to be the starter he can be before making him a closer.
Marc Normandin: Atleast when he comes back from the DL, do you ease him in through the pen and maybe throw him in the closer's role for awhile? Until his arm strength seems fine? I don't agree with making him the permanent solution at closer yet, especially when the rotation is suspect with injury many a day of the year
Al Yellon: I believe he's going to have to make some sort of change in his mechanics and/or approach, if he's going to succeed as a starter, because he is getting hurt in the same way every year.
Will Carroll: No, he's never done it. He'd have to deal with a whole new routine. Relieving - especailly closing - is not any easier on the arm. If we don't trust Dusty to handle him properly, why is he still the manager?Wait - Wood's never had the same injury twice...what change in his approach would you like?
Al Yellon: Isn't the current injury the same as last year's?
Will Carroll: No, nothing like it. Last year's was a triceps strain near the elbow. This is a rotator cuff injury.
Marc Normandin: Will - that is true, I heard that argument in the pro-rotation circles for Smoltz this winter, saying his arm could handle the rotation easier than the pen'
Al Yellon: Maybe 3 years as closer helped Smoltz' arm enough that he could start again.
Will Carroll: Smoltz just wants to make sure he knows when he can play golf.There's no evidence that closing/relieving is any easier on the arm. Reliever get hurt at a higher rate, tho there's some selection bias there.
Al Yellon: Rotator cuffs are serious business. Is Wood going to be out for a significant length of time?
Dan Scotto: I think he may be throwing sometime soon
Will Carroll: Depends on who you believe. No, I think he'll be back. We'll see Jason Schmidt back quickly from a similar injury. It worries me that Wood's been shut down this long.
Marc Normandin: Didn't Saberhagen pitch with a partially torn rotator cuff for a few seasons with the Red Sox? Or was that just 1999 and parts of 2000? I'm fuzzy on the exact injury, being 13 years old at the time and all.
Will Carroll: Yes, but Wood's injury is significantly different.
Al Yellon: Yeah, me too. Does the blame here go to Baker? Or Rothschild? Or just the way Wood approaches pitching? Then what is the solution?
Will Carroll: All of the above? Change all of the above, at least slightly.
Marc Normandin: Speaking of change...is Grady Little the kind of replacement you want for Baker?
Will Carroll: No. Well, yes and no.
Al Yellon: Not for me either.
Marc Normandinin: Any particular reason? Besides me ripping my hair out all of 2003?
Al Yellon: Because Little is yet another generic recycled manager
Will Carroll: Little might be the right type of guy to take over mid-season - it wont come to that thoough - but I didnt see his bullpen usage or ability to be creative. I would love to see Valentine.
Al Yellon: If the Cubs really want to think outside the box, I have an idea; Steve Stone. He's been bitching for years that he could do better. OK, let him try.
Marc Normandin: The difference between him and Jimy Williams in Boston astounded me. I'd love to see Davey Johnson come back to managing again as well, maybe the Cubs job would coax him back to baseball.Is Valentine still in Japan?
Dan Scotto: Yeah. Someone wrote about valentine possibly managing the Royals today in a KC paper, I think.
Al Yellon: Do you think Johnson's been out of the game too long?
Will Carroll: Bull - there are so few major league jobs that open - and guys like us that ask if people have been out too long or passed by - that you can't say no.
Will Carroll: Johnson hasn't been interested. Yes, Posnanski.
Al Yellon: I don't think any of the big names will take the KC job unless they get some assurances that they will actually increase payroll. Look what happened to Piniella at Tampa.
Will Carroll: I dont see Johnson as a fit with the front office.
Marc Normandin: Valentine is a good candidate...speaking of the Mets, Art Howe is available, any thoughts?
Al Yellon: This is all presuming we think that Dusty: a) will be fired b) isn't the man for the job.
Will Carroll: He wont be fired. 2006 is an open question. He's discussed walking away.
Marc Normandin: Who else is available? Larry Dierker?
Al Yellon: I can't see him walking away.
Dan Scotto: My impression on Howe was that while with the mets, he was far too focused on lefty/righty matchups with the bullpen... but otherwise, he wasn't a bad manager...
Will Carroll: Who's the next Willie Randolph? Who's winning in the minors?
Marc Normandin: No names come immediately to mind, but there has to be someone. I keep hearing Frank White's name for the Royals job, he's managing in Double-A
Al Yellon: I imagine Jim Hendry views Chris Speier as a possibility. Frankly, I would like to see a new batting coach and approach before I'd let Baker go
Will Carroll: Batting coach is Dusty's buddy. Never heard Speier mentioned, but I'll ask.
Al Yellon: And, that is a problem.
Marc Normandin: Maybe if you fire the batting coach, Dusty will walk away.
Al Yellon: Nah, they already fired Dusty's pet 3B coach. And I disagree... I think he'll finish out his deal.
Will Carroll: I'll say it - I don't see Dusty back in 2006. There's more to Kim's dismissal.
Al Yellon: What is the "more" to Kim's dismissal?
Will Carroll: I'm not comfortable saying anything more about it than that.
Al Yellon: Well, I'm just glad Kim is gone -- he was horrendous.
Will Carroll: Why? I'm not saying he wasn't, I just want to hear some reasoning.
Al Yellon: Why? He seemed to have no clue as to when to send runners and when not to send runners.
Marc Normandin: Wendell Send Em' Kim, I don't know when the nicknamed started, but it was there during his Boston time
Al Yellon: I know that Red Sox fans, Expos fans, Giants fans, wherever he was, could not stand him
Dan Scotto: How much can a third base coach hurt a team? a few runs here or there? I've heard things about kim, too.
Al Yellon: I can think of at least two or three games that Kim directly cost the Cubs by his poor choices
Will Carroll: So there should be some stats, right? Did the Cubs have more runners thrown out at home? Or third even?
Marc Normandin: How many games has he helped them in with good decisions though? I think we tend to ignore those times
Will Carroll: I don't know. Measuring coaches is an unknown. No one disagrees that Mazzone is the "best" pitching coach working, but we really have NO idea what he does or how it affects games.
Al Yellon: Maybe, and I am not holding Speier guiltless either, because he kept sending people home in the series in Houston to get thrown out.
Dan Scotto: i dunno... i don't like firing bits and pieces of a coaching staff. i tend to think that it should all be considered one part (except with a guy like Mazzone) because assigning blame is difficult
Will Carroll: Agreed.
Marc Normandin: True enough
Al Yellon: The problem with a coaching staff as "all one part" is that when a new manager comes in and brings all his "pet coaches", you inherit all the previous team's problems. This happened under both Riggleman and Baylor.
Will Carroll: Again, it points to measurement problems. How do we know who the best ones are?
Dan Scotto: Fair point. In terms of a 3rd base coach, i think you'd want to examine the success rate at plays at the plate. but players run through signs. sometimes, people stumble or take a bad step around third, too. There are a lot of variables... it's almost like intuition is the best measurement, which is a bad conclusion.
Marc Normandin: True, and I also think we tend to ignore when the 3rd base coach is doing his job, because it is almost as if he is not there. It is always on the replay when you see the runner thrown out on a poor decision that the yelling starts.
Al Yellon: There are also the "missed signs" -- there had to be one yesterday when Burnitz was caught stealing, that must have been a missed hit-and-run. Is that the player's fault or the coach's fault?
Will Carroll: But then you wonder are 3B coaches being too conservative and costing runs?
Marc Normandin: Do you think it might all just even out in the end? Maybe not exactly even, but to the point of being negligible?
Will Carroll: We dont know. For pitching its even harder. Especially when it comes to pitching injuries.
Al Yellon: Besides Mazzone, who are some good pitching coaches, in your opinions? And keep in mind that Rothschild had a very good reputation when he came here
Marc Normandin: I like Mike Maddux so far in Milwaukee
Al Yellon: Speaking of Milwaukee, I think Rich Donnelley is a very good 3B coach.
Dan Scotto: I haven't seen very many milwaukee games, unfortunately... but I'm sure it's a strong possibility... can good 3B coaches be good managers, too, for their on-field experience? or is it more a bench coach thing?
Will Carroll: Maddux is doing great work. Rick Peterson's up there. Dave Duncan with the right type of pitcher. Rick Anderson. The guy I'd want to hire is Orel Hershiser, maybe even as a manager.
Marc Normandin: What about Orel Hershisher so far? And nevermind, just missed.
Al Yellon: I think each skill is different. Some 3B coaches make lousy managers (Terry Bevington). Others make good ones.
Dan Scotto: I think that the managerial thing is still really difficult to judge... but i think it's safe to say that dusty baker keeping carlos zambrano out there for 130+ pitches is probably not good managing.
Marc Normandin: I'm sure he did it because at this point he does not trust his bullpen. Which is not a real excuse, but it is the one he had I think.
Will Carroll: Yes
Al Yellon: Shoot, I was trying to make a point about Z's 136 pitch outing, let me try again. In that situation, I agreed with it because Z was dominating, and the bullpen stunk right then
Marc Normandin: Does anyone know if he looked overtired or fatigued or anything at that point?
Al Yellon: I wouldn't do it EVERY start but neither do I think it should be prohibited
Marc Normandin: I ask only because you said he was dominating, which makes me wonder if he was actually tired or not yet.
Al Yellon: It didn't seem so -- he was throwing 97 MPH in the 9th inning.
Marc Normandin: I didn't see it, so I don't know if his mechanics were altered at all. Did you see that game Will?
Will Carroll: Yes on mlb.tv. He was struggling - there's a "dead cat bounce" where the velocity comes back as they're working and overthrowing
Marc Normandin: "reaching back?"
Will Carroll: But we have to remember that Zambrano's injury isn't likely a throwing injury. Pitching injuries are tough - Wood's elbow is likely the result of his HS workload.
Al Yellon: The fact that Z's injury isn't a pitching injury proves the point, I think -- that he can handle that heavier workload, the same as guys like Bartolo Colon.
Will Carroll: Prove it. Do you really want to take the risk?
Marc Normandin: Yeah, on that point, I wrote about Javier Vazquez "miraculously" bouncing back from his 2004 struggles, and in 2003 he led the league in PAP, which I'm sure resulted in a fatigued 2004. My point on that note is why risk seeing if they can handle it?
Will Carroll: How good could he be if we're slightly conservative and make sure he makes 30+ startes a year? Or do you want to try him at 130 pitches and explain yourself when his arm falls off?
Al Yellon: I'm not saying that Z should throw 136 pitches every start -- but once in a while I think he can handle it.
Will Carroll: Ok, how do you know when? Once a month? Once every five starts? What do you do his next outing?
Al Yellon: His next outing I would be VERY conservative
Will Carroll: Has that proven to be effective?
Marc Normandin: I'm not sure I agree with that Al...then you get say 8 labored innings from Zambrano in Start 1, and 5 conservative IP in Start 2. You know what happens when everyone knows your on a conservative pitch count? Take, take, take.
Dan Scotto: I think he probably could occasionally hit 130 (like most pitchers), but every outing, he's over 100 it seems... 106, 111, 108, 118, 105... those are his first five starts. Most pitchers need to work up to that, right?
Al Yellon: Marc, you make a good point. Z has to learn how to throw strikes more consistently in the early innings.
Marc Normandin: It happened with Pedro a few years back. Joe Kerrigan announced to the media exact pitch counts and timetables, and the opposing teams went alright we'll sit back for 4 innings and then cream him in the 5th
Dan Scotto: That's a heavy April workload for anyone, much less a 23 year old...
Will Carroll: How many pitches did Mulder go in that 10 inning complete - like 101?
Al Yellon: Will, why is it that some pitchers can handle these loads and some can't?
Marc Normandin: And Halladay had 99 pitches in a 10 inning game in 2003 right?
Dan Scotto: Yeah, i think it was 101
Will Carroll: So why not teach that?
Al Yellon: Teach what, exactly?
Will Carroll: Quit wasting pitches. throw strikes. Use your defense.
Al Yellon: I'd LOVE to see that.
Will Carroll: Here's my suggestion. Why not let Greg Maddux be the pitching coach?
Al Yellon: I wonder if he'd be interested.
Marc Normandin: Didn't he say he wants no part of teaching the other pitchers? I'd love to see him as one though.
Will Carroll: But there's more problems to the cubs than this. They need one more hitter but I dont see a good fit. There's not really anyone to bring up that fills a gap.
Al Yellon: What about trading for Aubrey Huff?
Will Carroll: Sure, once Lamar comes off his demands
Marc Normandin: Is Austin Kearns officially available yet? Or are the Reds still insisting on 4 outfielders plus Ryan Freel?
Will Carroll: Kearns is NOT available. If you had Griffey and Kearns, wouldnt you want some depth? Plus, Pena's injured
Marc Normandin: Noted: I'll stop suggesting that.
Al Yellon: Huff would be a good fit -- lefthanded hitter, good track record.
Marc Normandin: Yeah, I've been in the trade Casey and move Dunn to first camp anyways.
Will Carroll: But would you give up Pie, Murton, and a pitcher for him?
Al Yellon: No, I sure wouldn't.
Dan Scotto: Where would he play? leftfield? and would you trade Dubois?
Will Carroll: Who would take Casey?
Marc Normandin: That is the main issue with Casey, who else would take him
Al Yellon: Yes, I would trade Dubois if you could get Huff. Huff's only 3 years older than Dubois.
Will Carroll: Well, they could always dump this chump Lee ... 3 years older, already into arbitration ...
Al Yellon: HA
Marc Normandin: Its a good thing the Marlins claimed they could not afford Derrek Lee, and then signed Carlos Delgado, who isn't even the same hitter as Lee so far this year huh? Or the baserunner, or the fielder, or the age, or salary...
Dan Scotto: Yeah, lee's 8/9 stealing bases already this year, too, in addition to all the other monster numbers, I think.
Al Yellon: What do you do to try to get Corey Patterson to be a more selective hitter?
Will Carroll: How many guys have learned patience at the major league level not named Sosa?
Al Yellon: Then maybe it's time to trade Patterson.
Will Carroll: Trade him or start having a realistic role and expectation for him?
Marc Normandin: Do you think the Cubs could pry Victor Diaz away from the Mets? They claim to want no part of him as a starter, since Cameron is an "established hitter"
Will Carroll: No.
Dan Scotto: I don't think so, either... i can't think of anyone that they'd be able to give up for him that the mets would want / need
Marc Normandin: There really is not anyone available besides Huff I guess.
Dan Scotto: I think that Cameron to the cubs is a stronger possibility than Diaz. But even that's a longshot, in my opinion.
Marc Normandin: The Mets want bullpen help. The Cubs certainly can't afford to give anything up in that department.
Al Yellon: Maybe there will be in July
Will Carroll: That's ludicrous. Cameron?
Dan Scotto: He's being shopped everywhere, supposedly... I just don't see the Mets trading Diaz at all.
Will Carroll: I haven't heard word one on Cameron. It helps to be, you know, healthy before getting traded. How will the Mets get value for a guy who's hurt?
Al Yellon: Will Murton be ready by 2006?
Will Carroll: No, but close. Pie, Murton ...
Marc Normandin: According to ESPN Insider Rumor Page (I'm not even sure how much I believe it half the time) the Mets don't want to part ways with him anyways
Will Carroll: It's a rumor page!
Marc Normandin: Yeah I know...I don't even read it anymore, just when I look for something to write about.
Will Carroll: it depends on WHO you believe. who's their source?
Al Yellon: I don't see Pie ready till 2007.
Will Carroll: Ready doesn't always have anything to do with it
Marc Normandin: Baltimore Sun in the latest rumor central. Know anything about them? Scratch that, Washington Post claims they have no interest in trading Cameron.
Will Carroll: I dont know who wrote it and who they talked to. I can't claim any inside info on anyone's sources but my own.
Dan Scotto: I saw the cameron rumors in the ny daily news, but they write a ton of rumors.
Marc Normandin: I'm not sure I'd want Cameron anyways in Chicago, even if he was available. Expensive and possibly power sapped
Will Carroll: How about calling the Mets and asking?
Al Yellon: Cameron would fit in well with all the strikeouts
Will Caroll: Find me a backup CF with OBP skills.
Al Yellon: Kenny Lofton
Will Carroll: Not a bad thought.
Marc Normandin: How about Xavier Nady?
[editor's note, by Marc Normandin]The very end of this roundtable is in the process of being converted over to Windows. It is in .ichat file format; if anyone can help me with that, please say so.