Overused and Now They're Getting Abused: Chicago Cubs Pen Getting Hit Hard

Pat De Marco @@patdemarco01Correspondent IAugust 2, 2009

CHICAGO - JULY 08: Manager Lou Piniella #41 of the Chicago Cubs paces in the dugout during a game against the Atlanta Braves on July 8, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Braves defeated the Cubs 4-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If you didn't see this coming, you have not been paying attention.  For the third straight day, the Chicago Cubs bullpen has imploded.  Closer Kevin Gregg came into the Florida series with three blown saves and he leaves Florida with a total of five blown saves. 

Unfortunately, these things happen when you overuse your bullpen.  It's something that I have been saying for a long time and it likely will only get worse.  

One might be asking themselves, how can the Cubs bullpen be overused when the starters have the third most quality starts in the National League. Only the great Lou Piniella can answer that. 

Let's take a closer look at Kevin Gregg.  With 59 games remaining, Gregg has thrown an amazing 49.2 innings.  How can a closer throw 50 innings and only have 21 saves? 

That's what happens when you consistently pitch your closer regardless of the score in the ninth inning.  Gregg was eight for eight in save opportunities in July with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings. 

Certainly the numbers were good in July but he appeared in five non-save situations.  These were not tie games but were instead games where the Cubs led by four or more runs.  Not exactly the time you should be putting your closer in a ball game. 

Let's compare Gregg to some of the other closers in baseball.  Here is a list of some of the elite closers in the game.

Ryan Franklin—40 games, 41 innings, and 24 Saves 1.33 ERA

Jonathan Broxton—45 games, 47 innings, 24 Saves 2.83 ERA

Mariano Rivera—43 Games, 43 innings, 29 Saves   2.08 ERA

Jonathan Papelbon—45 Games, 45 innings, 27 Saves 2.00 ERA

Brain Fuentes—41 Games, 35 innings, 30 Saves 4.29 ERA

The list goes on and on, but believe it or not Kevin Gregg leads all closers in appearances and innings pitched.  

The numbers are not close.  Gregg has appeared in 51 games.  Let's be honest, Gregg is an average closer.  The Cubs have wasted so many innings and now it's starting to catch up. 

Now to the setup man, Carlos Marmol has racked up 51 innings and that's No. 3 among setup men.  Like Gregg, Marmol has appeared in numerous games with the Cubs leading by four or more runs.  Once again, we are talking about wasted innings. 

Bottom line, Piniella continues to shorten up his starters and holding them to a 95-100 pitch count but he abuses his pen. 

Last Sunday Piniella pulled Rich Harden after he allowed just one hit in 6 innings.  Harden had just 86 pitchers.   Piniella used three other pitchers to finish the game.  Once again, he wasted his bullpen. 

Piniella has carried 12 pitchers all season long but he consistently uses the same pitchers day in and day out.   Now it's catching up.  Gregg's location was awful the past two nights and his velocity was down.  Can you say dead arm? 

We can only hope Gregg and Marmol find themselves, but the Cubs should never have been in this position.  If you're going to carry 12 pitchers, then use 12 pitchers.  At this point, it may behoove the Cubs to call up BJ Ryan.  At least it's a fresh arm.