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Rich Hill Goes to Iowa

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The title of this post is about the Cubs, but really, the post itself is much more about the Brewers.

Last night, Rich Hill walked the first four guys he faced.  Piniella pulled him from the game, and it was announced that Jon Lieber will replace him in the rotation.  Hill obviously has some issues to work through, and the longer it takes him to recover, the harder it will be for a contending team to put him back in the rotation.

This, of course, happened on the same day as the announcement regarding Gallardo's season-ending injury.  It's pretty clear that the loss of Gallardo for the season is worse than Hill's wildness (Hill cold be back in a month, for one thing), but  the effect may be closer than you think.

Before the season, I noted that the Cubs and Brewers rotations lined up very evenly.  You can argue about who is better in each slot, but there are a lot of similarities if you aren't tied to the "official" position on who was the "#2" or "#3" starter:

  • The ace: Sheets / Zambrano
  • The young stud: Gallardo / Hill
  • The $10MM vet: Suppan / Lilly

Dempster or Marquis would be a decent analogue to Bush, though the biographical similarities break down in the last two spots.  Statistically, though, Dempster/Marquis will probably be about equivalent to Villa/Parra in 2008.

Both young studs are out for a while, and that leads us to:

  • Initial reinforcements: Bush / Lieber
  • 2008 ZiPS ERAs: 4.64 / 4.85

It'll take a lot more than this simple comparison to evaluate the impact of losing Gallardo, and it doesn't have as much to do with the Cubs as I'm suggesting here.  But if there's a moral to the story, it's this: sh*t happens.  It happens to every team, every year.  It happened to us yesterday, and it happened to our rival as well. 

The real test of any baseball team is what happens next.  That applies both in the psychological sense--can the team pull together and win despite losing a key player?--and the front office sense--is the team built to withstand a major injury?

The Brewers aren't as pitching-deep as they were two months ago, and that's been exposed in a way that most of us didn't anticipate.  But whatever you think of Dave Bush, he is very possibly the best #6 starter in the big leagues.  By that standard, Lieber isn't bad either, but he probably won't be as good.  The Cubs will survive yesterday's blow, and so will we.