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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/18/08

Roster Spot 13- P- Bob Howry #62
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 220 Bats: Left Throws: Right
In 2005 the Cubs suffered greatly trying to hold leads in the 7th and 8th innings. While Ryan Dempster had the best year of his closer career, going 33 of 35, more often than not games were blown before Dempster even had a crack at nailing them down. The combination of LaTryoy Hawkins/Roberto Novoa/Todd Wellemeyer/Will Ohman/Mike Remlinger proved vastly inept at getting leads to the 9th inning. So the Cubs response to their 79-83 finish in '05 was to make three big off-season moves: trade for Juan Pierre to lead-off, and sign Bob Howry and Scott Eyre to big contracts totalling 33 million, the largest contracts ever given to set-up men.

In 2006, with the team crapping itself all around them, Bob and Scott were bright spots, especially Bob, as he went 4-5 with a 3.17 ERA in a team-leading 84 appearances. Many felt that manager Dusty Baker overused Bob and Scott Eyre in a lost cause and shouldn't have put so much stress on their arm by forcing then to make 84 and 78 appearances, respectively, rather than allowing some of the Cubs young pitchers to gain experience. Baker claimed that he wasn't used to "not playing to win", which is odd, as he should have been well used to losing at that point.

In 2007 both Bob and Scott showed the effects early in the season of Dusty's abuse in 2006. While I mentioned Scott's horrendous first half numbers in his article, Bob fared only a little better, posting a 4.68 ERA in 39 first half appearances. Like Scott, Bob improved after the All Star Break with a 1.85 ERA in 39 second half games. Bob finished with a solid line of:

78 games, 81.1 innings pitched, 6-7, 3.32 ERA. 72 strikeouts, 19 walks.

In his two seasons with the Cubs Bob has been a model of consistency and reliability that their bullpen frequently lacks. This spring with Dempster being moved to the rotation Howry was part of the three man competion for the closing spot with Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol, but since has dropped out of the race with an ugly 0-1, 11.81 ERA record in 6 appearances. While his spring numbers have generated a great deal of anxiety among Cubs fans, I'll give Bob the benefit of the doubt for now and base my judgement on his consistent regular season numbers. If he stays close to his career norms, Bob will once again be the Cubs go-to guy in the 7th inning.

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