The Chicago Cubs decided to let Kevin Gregg go in the offseason and promote Carlos Marmol to closer full-time. Part of the reason the team felt comfortable with the move was because of the emergence of Angel Guzman as a viable setup man last season.
Guzman now faces the tough decision on whether or not to have shoulder surgery to repair a torn ligament in his throwing shoulder and his future with Chicago is uncertain. As is the Cubs chance for success in 2010. Here's why:
Guzman appeared in 55 games in 2009, totaling 61 innings with an ERA of 2.95. Guzman’s success was in his ability to limit baserunners in late innings. His 1.05 WHIP last season was fourth among all National League relief pitchers with at least 60 innings of work. He held opponents to a batting average of .192, sixth-best among NL relief pitchers with 60 innings of work.
Guzman found success pitching at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, something that is not easily accomplished. At home in 2009, Guzman posted an opponent’s on-base percentage of .241, a WHIP of 0.903 and an opponent’s batting average of .181. For all Cubs pitchers with at least 30 IP at home since 1980, the WHIP was the third-best, the opponents OBP was the fourth-best, and the opponent’s BA was the ninth-best.
General manager Jim Hendry was already hoping to add a veteran righty to the bullpen before the injury and now the pen problems appear even larger. For now the role of righty setup man appears to fall on Esmailin Caridad. Who? Caridad was impressive in 14 appearances late last season, posting an ERA of 1.40 and a WHIP of 0.93 from August to October. But he is inexperienced and has never had to pitch with as much pressure as he will face this season.
Bottom line: The Cubs will have to find some relief help and fast or they could find themselves looking worse than last season ,when they ranked 11th in the NL in bullpen ERA and had 24 losses in relief.