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.
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.