The Balance

>> Tuesday

And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked, and he saw the tree above him, and the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light, and the balance.

At long last, Sweet Lou has broken his silence. We now know the answer to that essential question:

Who will be in the Cubs' starting rotation?

And the answer: Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Hill, Marquis.

Behold... the balance, the symmetry, the club sandwich-like structure... the lack of Sean Marshall.


If only those letters were themselves symmetrical, the Cubs could have had the most balanced starting rotation in the history of the game.

Ah, but letters are letters. Throwing arms are something very different. Imagine the frustration of their opponents this year. One day, they step into the box, and the man on the mound is throwing from his right hand. The next day, he is throwing with his left. And then the next day... whoa! Righty again! They will be utterly blindsided, beffudled even.

And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.

Aristotle taught us that balance is essential to our growth, our happinness, and to life itself. The sciences teach us that all things in nature are drawn to a state of balance. And the great gymnast Mary Lou Retton had excellent balance.

Of course, there's one problem: None of this has shit to do with the sequence of starting pitchers on an MLB roster. Because--guess what--the strategy of "balancing" a starting rotation based on right-handedness and left-handedness is sheer quackery. I don't even need to research this to say so. I'm that confident. If I worked for SABR and were more proficient with Access, I'd glady do so. But I'm not, and I don't. So baseless assertion, it is.

But I think logic is very much on my side on this one. Maybe, maybe I could see this strategy having a tangible effect on a bad high school team. (Even then, wouldn't it be more the effect of general inexperience against lefties?) But someone please tell me how a major league hitter--twenty-one hours, an amphetamine crash, a night's sleep, and a BP session later--is at all affected by the starting pitcher the night before. The idea is absurd, but we see it influence teams all the time in free agency (Exhibit A: Zito) and roster decisions. It's like some ill-conceived affirmative action program, except in the Cubs' case, the majority is being shown preference.

Because, you know, a team simply can't win with a majority lefty rotation.

And becuase of their faith in the bogus and nonexistent, the Cubs are willing to stunt the growth of a pretty decent pitching prospect (Marshall) in deference to a mediocre verteran (Dempster) who hasn't pitched well as a starter since 2000, a guy with a shaky track record, which includes a poor second half in '07 and a horrible both-halves in '06 (Marquis), and 38 year-old who's been carved up twice in the last five years (Lieber) as the backup option.

Brilliant, just brilliant, player management. I understand that the Cubs are still shopping Marshall, but then wouldn't it make sense to get him innings and showcase his talent? Or do the Cubs realize that his ERA last year was a shade on the lucky side and want to hide him away in the bullpen, lest he diminish his trade stock by getting hit. If that's the case, the way the team is going about it seems a little transparent, no?

But now I'm straying from my original point, which is: I don't care in the least whether a pitcher is right-handed, left-handed, or a cyclops who shoots baseballs out of his eye (other than that might be illegal) as long as he gets guys out. I don't understand why some people don't get this.


Patrick 4:53 PM  

Vinnie, I agree with your argument in general, but you missed the point that Marquis had a great spring with a 1.9 something ERA. Granted yes that is spring, but if he gets off to a good start (like the past couple years) it is certainly in the Cubs favor. Remember, they will almost certainly trade him sometime, so if they can at least get a couple quality starts from Marquis before that happens, all the power to them.

I agree that Marshall should be ahead of Dempster, but I would expect Marshall to take Marquis' spot in the rotation before too long and Lieber will take Dempster's spot.

This is just the beginning of what will be numerous rotation and bullpen changes this year

Anonymous,  6:45 AM  

Im in Italy and just got my ass handed to me by some twelve year olds I foolishly challenged to a soccer game. Let it never be said I can beat 12 year old Italians in soccer. Also its one in the afternoon and Im plastered and for some reason spending money in an internet cafe to tell this story on this blog of all places. Italy fucking rules.

Vinnie 12:14 PM  

Yeah, I totally agree. Sean Marshall is awesome. Thanks for weighing in, Corcoran.

By the way, let's see how much you love Italy after some scuzzy native swipes your camera. As for me, I'll stick with the good ol' US of A.

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