Chicago Cubs’ closing pitcher Carlos Marmol’s struggles finally may have reached a boiling point for Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum. Marmol has struggled throughout the entire 2012 season. Even in times the closer has earned the save, Marmol has not looked effective.
In 12 appearances this season, Marmol has allowed six earned runs (6.23 ERA) on 8 hits and 12 base on balls while striking out 8 batters. Marmol’s 2012 struggles were only a continuation from the closer’s 2011 season that saw the pitcher blow 10 saves to go along with a 4.01 ERA. In an off-season that featured a lot of turnover for the Cubs’ organization, there was speculation that Marmol could be one of the victims of the regime change. However, both Cubs’ President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer expressed confidence that Marmol would regain the form that earned him the label of being one the most dominating closers in all of baseball. The confidence continued in Spring Training. During the early portions of Spring Training, new Cubs’ pitching coach Chris Bosio suggested to reporters that the coaching staff has found some flaws with what Marmol was doing last season.
Among the flaws that Marmol had during the 2011 season, the closer fell in love with his slider rather than using his fastball. In 2011, Marmol used his slider 64% of time as opposed to his fastball which he used 36% of the time. If one were to look back when Marmol was last effective, the 2010 season, Marmol used his fastball 41% of the time and his slider 59% of the time. In 2012, Marmol has reverted back to his 2010 ratio. So far this season, the Cubs’ closer has used his fastball 47.9% of the time and his slider 52.1% of the time.
With Marmol’s continuing to struggle, it stands to reason that Cubs still have yet to find what is plaguing their closer. Sveum has been patient up to this point. But, this is not the 103 year World Series draught that we are talking about. We are talking about a closer that is continuing to put the team in jeopardy. Just like how every contestant’s time on the television game-show titled “Jeopardy” must come to an end, Marmol’s time as Cubs’ closer has to come to an end.
The end is near. On Thursday, Marmol entered the ninth inning with the Cubs having 3 t0 0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds and on the verge of their first series sweep. One error, three base on balls, and one hit later the game was tied at three and Marmol failed to record a single out in the Ninth inning. Rafael Dolis entered the game and consequently lost the game for the Cubs in the tenth inning. Marmol threw 18 pitches in the ninth inning, six of which were strikes. After the game, Sveum was none too happy with the team’s closer. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times went as far as to say that Sveum is fed up with Marmol. While Sveum would not directly say that Marmol was being replaced as the team’s closer, the manager did allude to the idea that it could happen soon.
Kerry Wood will not replace Marmol as the team’s closer. Rather the nod would go to either James Russell or Rafael Dolis. Russell is the only left-hander in the Cubs’ bullpen, and the 26 year old has yet to allow a run in 9 appearances this season. Over the course of the past two seasons, Russell has quickly transformed into a late-inning reliever. After the Cubs traded Sean Marshall, Russell was in a prime position to be a late-inning reliever for the Cubs. However, Russell should not be the team’s closer. Russell is at his best in the role that he is currently in for the Cubs. That role is as a left-handed specialist. Left-handers are hitting .125 against Russell this season while right-handers are hitting .238 against the reliever.
The nod should go to Rafael Dolis. Dolis has been thrown into the fire during the 2012 season in light of Marmol’s struggles and the recent injury to Kerry Wood. For the most part, Dolis has responded well to the challenge. The 24 year old reliever has an ERA of 3.52 this season with the Cubs to go along with a WHIP of 1.24. Dolis still has work to do as the reliever has 4 strikeouts as opposed to issuing 8 base on balls. But, there is no doubt that Dolis could very well be the team’s closer of the future. The 2012 season is going to operate as tool for the Cubs to build towards the future. Under that knowledge, Dolis should be given an opportunity to be the team’s closer. The past is the past. Marmol as the Cubs’ closer should be a thing of the past.