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March 2012

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Season Player Preview: Carlos Marmol

Written by , Posted in General

When he is on, they say he is untouchable.  When he is off, well, he is so far off it makes you wonder if he should go back to being a catcher.

Carlos Marmol makes you want to scream with joy and anger all in the same at bat.  He has the ability to throw a slider that looks like a strike down the pipe until, at the last moment,  it becomes unhittable with a canoe paddle.  The frustration sets in when he backs it up with a slider that either hangs and gets crushed or starts out in the other teams dugout and was an obvious ball from the moment it left his hand.  Before you know it, the  three run lead you staked your closer is gone in five or six at bats (See August 16th, 2011 against the Houston Astros.)  Carlos Marmol is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of closers.

Closing is an inexact art form.  It’s 1/3 power pitcher, 1/3 location-finesse , and 1/3 crazy all wrapped up in one inning of work that often decides the winner of a game.  Sometimes one of the three qualities overpowers the others.  The only thing that matters is getting batters out…any way you can.  Oh, and the other thing, having a short memory.  We’ll be counting on Carlos to have one of those short memories going into the 2012 season.

2011 was a bit of a disaster for Carlos Marmol.  Losing his job for a stint in mid-July,  he led the league in blown saves (10).  He certainly was a different pitcher from his otherworldly 2010 edition.  The 2010 edition was so good it won him a three year $20 million contract from GM Jim Hendry.  Let’s take a look at a few graphics representing the past few years:

This chart from Fangraphs shows Carlos Marmol’s velocity with his fastball year over year.

As you can see Carlos lost a little off his heater towards the end of 2010 and it continued right into 2011.  Once your fastball starts dropping into the low nineties it loses that other-worldly presence. Now let’s take a look at the slider:

So the slider is speeding up while the fastball is getting slower.   Carlos’ slider, as many do,  tends to lose its horizontal movement when the speed is cranked up too high as seen in the movement charts here.

2011 also saw Marmol’s K/9 rate take a dive down to 12.04 from an astounding 15.99 in 2010.   2011’s numbers are nothing to scoff at, that 12.04 is still quite awesome.  However when we see his ERA ballooned up to 4.01 from 2.55 in 2010 we start to see the rest of the story.  While his GB% stayed about the same his FB/HR ratio jumped from 1.9% up to 7.1% in 2011.  His WHIP also climbed to 1.38, up a little from 1.18 in 2010.

The story on Marmol’s success and failure has always been linked to his fatigue and mechanics.   We hear a lot about arm slots with Carlos.  When he is going good he tends to keep that arm slot high and when he goes bad it drops down.  He definitely has a somewhat violent delivery and can throw his mechanics off at times when he tries to overthrow his pitches.  It will be interesting to see if Chris Bosio is making multiple trips to the mound when Carlos starts to waver in an effort to keep an eye on Carlos and his mechanics.

Projections:

I have no information on the ZiPS projections but I can tell you that Mr. Bill James sees Carlos logging 36 saves in 2012.  I am going to predict 38.  Mr. James also feels that Carlos will lower his K/9 rate to 11.49 and raise his BB/9 to 6.16.  Here is where I differ.  I think the K/9 rate stays the same.  I also feel he lowers his walk rate to around 5.25.  The defense behind him will make up the difference, as we should see an improvement overall there.  Blown Saves gets back down to a manageable 5 or maybe 6.

In my opinion, that strike out rate and walk rate are the crossroads to Marmol’s performance.  The strikeout gets Marmol out of a lot of jams that the walks get him in to.  If Carlos can regain control with the slider and keep the fastball on the edges of the plate with velocity, we could see 2010 all over again, when he was simply dominant.

Overall, Carlos has got to be one of Chris Bosio’s pet projects this season.  There is a lot of fire power in Carlos Marmol and harnessing that power could be as easy as micro managing the mechanics and keeping Carlos well rested.  I know this for sure, one more bad season and the Cubs could be shopping for a closer in 2013.

  • Buddy

    Saves are all about opportunity, so I’m not too concerned about projecting a pitcher’s save total. Hopefully Marmol’s issues can be fixed be a mechanical tweak or two. But I doubt it. He’s simply a wild pitcher with really good stuff. When the stuff starts to go, he’ll flame out pretty fast. 

    • Norm Bothwell

      Marmol used a cutter in 2011 that he is ditching, which supposedly affected his mechanics.

      • cap’n Obvious

        a cutter is basically just a really fast slider…I think what the above charts show most clearly is that Marmol’s fastball and slider are too close to the same speed.  Hitters might be late, but never off balance.  Most hitters, when losing late in a game, will look to go the other way.  Marmol pitches to that contact on right hand hitters.  What he needs is a change or split-finger pitch.  His hands are certainly big enough.  Even if he can’t throw it for a strike, he can throw it for effect.  Of course, there are times where he can’t throw his fastball or slider for a strike, in which case I’d rather see Maholm close.

      • Norm Bothwell

        I disagree; the slider breaks down and left, the cutter just left. He needs to stick to two pitches like he did when he was successful.

        Cubs closer Carlos Marmol threw his first side session under the
        watch of new manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio on
        Sunday, and made them laugh.

        The topic was Marmol’s cutter. Last season, when Sveum was the
        Brewers hitting coach, he would study video of Marmol to prepare for the
        Cubs-Brewers series. Sveum couldn’t figure out what the heck the
        right-hander was throwing.

        “We were thinking, ‘What is he doing? Is that just a bad slider?’” Sveum said.

        Brewers hitters would return to the dugout shaking their heads as well.

        Marmol has admitted the cutter gave him problems and was part of the
        reason his mechanics were messed up. Last season, he was tied for the
        Major League lead with 10 blown saves.

        “He is what he is — he’s an impressive closer but he’s a slider guy
        with one of the best, unhittable sliders that we’ve seen in a long
        time,” Sveum said. “That’s what he is and unfortunately sometimes he can
        get into a lot of pitches in innings because of it, but it’s so
        devastating he gets out of it, too. You don’t want him doing anything
        that Carlos Marmol isn’t used to. I think he’ll be back to that this
        year.”
        *edit* forgot link
        http://muskat.mlblogs.com/2012/02/19/219-marmol-gets-pep-talk-guidance-on-first-day/

  • Buddy

    Saves are all about opportunity, so I’m not too concerned about projecting a pitcher’s save total. Hopefully Marmol’s issues can be fixed be a mechanical tweak or two. But I doubt it. He’s simply a wild pitcher with really good stuff. When the stuff starts to go, he’ll flame out pretty fast. 

  • Chetwest

    I see Carlos still getting over 40 opportunities this year.  The Cubs wont be good enough to blow teams out and I feel a lot of their wins will be of the close variety.  In other words, more save opportunities. 

    • Noah_I

      I’d be curious if this in fact played out.  In other words, is it that good teams have a lot more blowout wins than bad teams, or are the differences in the blowouts pretty marginal and the big difference is that good teams have much better records in games decided by 1-3 runs?  I don’t know the answer to this, but it’s just a curiosity.  Good stuff, though, especially on noting the reduced velocity difference between the fastball and slider.

      • Lizzie

         This is very interesting to me, Noah. I might track it a bit this year. Just from watching (not from looking at any numbers) I FEEL like the Cubs were either blown away, or when they were “in it” then the relievers blew it. No real in between. Either blown away (on the short end) or losing the close ones. I know this is just my generalizing a bad year, it will be interesting to monitor it.

      • Noah_I

        I’d be interested in seeing your results.  And that’s the interesting thing about it.  The feeling of many Cub fans regarding the games are clearly biased (statistically speaking) by the fact that the season as a whole was a disappointment.  But, of the Cubs 71 wins last season, 31 of them didn’t result in a save.  How does that number compare to the other teams in baseball?  I’m just curious to know. 

        Personally, I’d bet the real answer is that good team BOTH have more blow out wins and win more close games. 

    • Buddy

       I’d be shocked if he didn’t. Even crappy teams still have lots of save chances.

  • Tommy

    The Cubs are famous for having closers who send their coaches scrambling for the antacid.  Mitch Williams wasn’t called “Wild Thing” for nothing.

  • Doc Raker

    Closer history is strewn with dominant slider pitchers that lose their effectiveness and I fear Marmol is next. If Thed could get a ransom for Marmol in a trade I would support it.

    • Noah_I

      As would I.  To me, the best case scenario is that Marmol looks absolutely dominant in the first half of the season and the Cubs are able to trade him and most of his contract for above market value in July. 

    • BLPCB

      This. We can get another closer for cheaper when we are good again. You can put a lot of false value into a closer, so hopefully we can pump up Marmol’s value and then unload him at the deadline. I’m happy most of these contracts are finally coming off the books. After this year, all that will be left of that half billion dollar spree will be 2 years and 36M of Soriano.

  • Doug S.

    Recurring nightmare……Marmol walks the lead off batter in the 9th….. the L flag gets in the on deck circle………it plays out……..again

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Before I’m ready to call the time of death on Marmol’s closer career, I want to see what Bosio can do with him.  I think Marmol might have suffered the most from Larry Rothschild’s departure last season.  I’m not sure we’ll know unless (until) he starts costing us close games again, but count me as optimistic that he can return to his 2010 form.

    • cap’n obvious

      I believe it is the Yankees that are suffering most from Rothschild’s departure.  How this guy hasn’t been exposed for the absolute fraud that he is escapes me. 

      That being said, I agree.  Bosio should get a chance to fix what’s between Marmol’s ears.  A hundred times more qualified than Riggins.  I’d have liked to see Mike Harkey get the job, but Bosio might surprise me.

  • Chuck

    Not to be a Negative Nelly here, byt the Cubs should trade Marmol if his value is percieved to be high.  Preferably closer to the trade deadline.  A good closer is only really valuable to a team that expects to be contending for something.  If you are going to win 80 games and your closer blows 15 as opposed to 5 there is not much difference between winning 65 and 75.  You still aren’t going to the playoffs.

    If the Cubs can get some Grade A or B prospects, he should be traded.  You can find another closer fairly easily.  Just take you next-best reliever and say he is the closer.  Getting good starters and position players is much more valuable int eh long run.

    • Norm Bothwell

       Agreed Chuck, I just don’t think Marmol has the value any more…especially when you could get a guy like Madson for only $8M and not give up assets other than cash.

      • Noah_I

        I think we’re in sort of a new zone regarding relief pitcher value.  Clearly in the offseason teams are getting smarter on that front, with the exceptions of the Phillies and Marlins.  But if a team is in the hunt and feels it “needs a closer”, will they still overspend in July? 

        Here’s my question: let’s say the Cubs do trade Marmol in July, and in return get an essentially identical haul as they did for Marshall while only having to cover a reasonable (to you) part of Marmol’s remaining salary.  Would that be considered a solid return for Marmol?

        I’d be shocked if we could get a Grade A prospect for Marmol (there are very few of those in baseball).  If we could get one B and a couple of C’s, I’d do handstands I’d be so excited.

  • Doc Raker

    This team won’t need a closer to often, a June or July fleecing of some contending team is very likely. Mark this post come MLB trade winds time.

  • Buddy

    I hope you’re right Doc. I’d love to see the Cubs sell high on Marmol. 

    • I’d be fine with the Cubs selling medium on Marmol…Ackley took his slider yard today.  That pitch was untouchable two years ago.  Let Woody do his curtain call as the closer.  

  • cap’n obvious

    I’d like to see Wood retire with his dignity intact…not having him blow a 3rd straight save and quit mid-season.  The one thing they should do is use him in situations that are beneficial to him…they owe him that.  The team won’t contend this year anyway.  Might as well give us fans something to be happy about.