Catching Up on Past Moves...

Yeah, so, that was fun. I figured I'd link to the Reds version of today's 9-0 drubbing of the Cubs. Their version a lot happier. Not much you can say about this one. Let's move on to other topics.

Last weekend's Towel Drills board meeting had us away from the parents' basement computer and a little behind the times on some important roster moves. Let's run a quick recap: On Friday, Chad "the" Fox got a call back to the bigs at the "expense" of Kevin Hart. (Quotes emphasizing the fact that Hart has been terrible and is really no big loss at this point. It's called sarcasm people, stay with me). Fox wasted little time getting his name in the papes, giving up a 2 run jack in the 11th to a dude named Skip to take the loss. For his efforts after what must have been an exhausting 0.2 IP on Friday, Rich Hill got sent to Iowa on Saturday. Then he cried about it and junk. Sean Gallagher was the corresponding move, getting called up from Iowa. Thank God Gallagher made it back-we were running out of pitchers to hand out home runs to the Reds today after new Cubs starter Jon Lieber, moved to the rotation to replace Hill, left the game having only given up 4 HRs in 2 innings.

Let's take a look at these moves. Look, Rich Hill is a good pitcher. The guy was a stud last year. In 2007, Hill's first full season as a big league SP, he threw 195 innings over 32 starts and picked up 11 wins while striking out 183 batters, walking only 63, and posting a 3.74 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19. Hill's 40.3 VORP was 3rd best on the Cubs and 34th best among all SPs (Ted Lilly 24; Z 29). Hill's major problem this year-dude's just walking too many people. Last year, Hill walked only about 2.9 batters per 9 IP. This year in 19.2 IP: 8.24 BB/9. Drastic uptick. As far as what's causing this, your guess is as good as mine, but my guess, if I had 2, would be either mechanics or a lurking injury. I wanted to say an injury could have been caused by a huge jump in his IPs, but between Iowa and Chicago last year, Hill tossed 199 innings. Maybe the league is just catching up with Hill, maybe he's tipping pitches, maybe he's just working through a lack of confidence that began with his slow start in spring. Who knows. But we need this guy back in Chicago and pitching well for the Cubs to go anywhere this year. The road back got off to a mediocre start the other night-Hill took the loss for the I-Cubs, giving up 7 hits over 5 innings and striking out 5. Best news? He only walked 1.

Replacing Hill in the rotation (well, at least that was the plan before today's HR parade) will be Jon Lieber. We all know of Lieb's history with the Cubs and his 20 dubs in 2001. But that was 7 years. Lieber is 38 years old now. His last year with double digit wins was 2005 when he pitched 218 innings for the Phillies. He only pitched 168 in '06, and 78 last year, working some out of the bullpen. As a bullpen guy in '08 for the Cubs, Lieber has proved effective. Though giving up just over a hit per all of his 19+ innings, Lieber has only walked 2 and given up only 4 Ernies while striking out 9. His ERA (though not a very good stat to measure RPs with) was at a stout 1.86 before today's blowup as a starter. As a 6th starter and a guy who can and is willing to pitch out of the bullpen, I think Lieber is very valuable. But Lieber's days as a long-term solution for a championship rotation are done-zo.

So if not Hill, and if not Lieber, then who? Sean Marshall or Sean Gallagher, apparently. Marshall would seem to be the first (well, after Hill and Lieber anyway) option as he started 19 games for the Cubs last year and 24 in '06. His numbers were just about league average as he posted a VORP of only 16 in his 100 IPs last year. Though only 25, kid's been 'round the block a bit. I think he's pretty much a known commodity at this point. And what we know is that he can take the ball and throw, but he's not going to do much else. I think these guys might disagree with that statement, but what do they know?

Sean Gallagher's abilities are more unknown. Gallagher is only 22 years old. In 29 IPs thus far for Iowa, Gallagher was sporting a 3.10 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and had walked 9 batters to 30 Ks. Pretty decent. But how he'll handle the jump to major league starter is anyone's guess. Gallagher did pitch 14 innings in '07 for the Cubs, but all of them came out of the pen. Baseball Prospectus profiles him as a pretty middle of the road starter in all the major skills. On the posotive side, though, Gallagher was much sought after in the off-season by potential Cubs trading partners.

If this club is going to make a run this year, Rich Hill absolutely has to be a part of the rotation. Lieber is a great stop-gap to have in our back pocket, but he's not the answer. Marshall can eat some innings as a starter, but that doesn't win you championships. And Gallagher will probably fill a slot in the Cubs rotation at some point (actually, he'll probably get traded before that ever happens), but he won't today. Out of the bullpen he might be useful down the stretch, but he's no Ubaldo Jimenez or Joba Chamberlain who's going to come from nowhere to lead a team deep into the postseason. So for now, the best alignment is an effective Hill with Lieber and the lefty/right duo de Sean.

Let's hope Hill gets his bidness together sooner rather than later and is back to give this rotation and ballclub a lift.

Comment (1)

Lionel

May 8, 2008 at 9:46 AM

I snatched this comment from Billy Beane, heard on Baseball This Morning, this morning:
"The good players don't whine when they get sent down. They go down and prove they deserve to come back up." How true. Let's take a look back to last year. Ronny C throws a fit when he gets sent down, despite his batting average floatin' around the 'Doza line. Rich Hill gets sent down. Why? Well, the fact that he pitches a decent inning and then walks 3 dudes the next is probably a clue. I don't know if these guys are pissed at themselves or if the beat writers just find a way to get under their skin as they leave the ballpark, but I am getting really tired of hearing about some dude sucking it up and then getting pissed that he is getting demoted. yeah, it sucks. Shut your mouth, go back to Iowa, and prove that you deserve to come back up.

Rich Hill has to realize that if he can get his pitching back under control, he's coming back up. Lou, JH, the Cubs, the TD staff all want to see this guy back in the rotation, not in AAA.