Cubs Contention: Defending Kevin Gregg Against Kerry Wood

Ricky ButtsCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2009

There has been a lot of confusion at why the Cubs traded Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.  To add to that, the Cubs let last year's closer, Kerry Wood, walk to Cleveland even though he wanted to stay.

This situation has really angered some fans. 

It makes no sense to them. 

Kerry supposedly deserved the money.

Now, I am a huge Kerry Wood fan.  I wish him the best of luck in Cleveland.  At the same time, I see what the Cubs were doing by letting him go and acquiring Kevin Gregg.

Gregg did lead the league last year in blown saves with nine.  Yet, he saved 29 games, only five shy of Kerry Wood.  I would also like to note, that Kerry received a save twice when pitching one third of an inning with a four run lead.  He had four total saves where the Cubs were ahead by four runs.  Gregg had zero saves when his team led by more than three.

Also, one year earlier, Gregg saved 32 games and blew only four.  Kerry was coming back from yet another injury, saved zero games, and recorded zero holds. 

My question is this. 

How do we know that Kerry will continue his success as a closer? 

Is that risk worth $10 million?

I myself don't think so, even though I wish Kerry could have stayed.  I wish Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, and Sammy Sosa never left either.

It is easy for one to say, "Kerry was improving and Gregg was going backwards."  Looking at a stat sheet might say that, but that is not what you see if you dig deeper.

In 2008, Kevin Gregg was hampered by a knee injury in August.  In that month, he blew three out of nine save chances.  In those three games, he gave up more than three runs in each.  That helped his August ERA balloon to 10.13, his only month above 3.00.

The second two blown saves were back-to-back and led to Gregg and his knee being rested.  He did not pitch between August 30 and September 8.  He proceeded to come back to pitch in nine September games, compiling seven innings, four holds, and no earned runs.

Kerry on the other hand, had three months with an ERA over 6.50.  One was March, where he only pitched one inning, but in September, he gave up eight runs in 10.2 innings.

Gregg has had much more experience in the ninth inning.  Minus his horrific August of 2008, he had saved 55 out of 65 games (only four blown saves in 36 chances in 2007) over the past two years.  To go along with that, he also recorded 10 holds.

Now, maybe Kerry would also have saved 58 out of 65.  It also may be true that Kerry was better set up to succeed in Chicago.  I believe Gregg will get more save chances with two-plus run leads in Chicago than he did in Florida.  Not to mention the four run lead chances.

Also, if Gregg remained healthy last year, his ERA would have very likely been under 3.00. 

For some reason, people have made this out to be one of the "bad" trades of Hendry's tenure.  On the other hand, I don't feel many have dug deep enough to get a great handle on the situation. 

First, he can pitch in the eight or ninth inning, depending on whether he or Marmol win the closer's job.

Second, he has more experience, consistency and is $8 million dollars less per season than Wood.  If you ask me, the blown saves (three more than Wood in 2008) and higher ERA (3.41 compared to Wood's 3.26) are worth the bargain, even though Wood is classic Cub legend.


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