Carlos Marmol No Longer A Closer–For Now


One of the bright spots of the 2011 season for the Chicago Cubs is quickly turning into when of the team’s biggest concerns for the second half of the season. The recent struggles of closer Carlos Marmol has left everybody scratching their heads. After posting an ERA of 0.60 with six saves in the month of June, Marmol has imploded in the month of July posting an ERA of 17.15 with two blown saves. Those struggles continued for Marmol as the team returned to play from the All-Star break. On Thursday, Marmol walked four batters while giving up 5 runs in what turned out to be his seventh blown save of the season. Marmol was on pace for his eighth blown save today as he allowed one run on two hits and a walk before being pulled by manager Mike Quade.

After the game, Quade told reporters that Marmol, for the time being, will no longer be the team’s closer. The Cubs manager considered replacing Marmol as the team’s closer after Thursday’s debacle, but, opted to give the struggling pitcher one more chance. Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall will now share save opportunities while Marmol works through his issues in the bullpen. It is likely that Marmol will be used as a middle reliever in non-pressure situations while he works through his struggles.

There are multiple factors contributing to Marmol’s recent struggles. For instance, as opposed to last season, Marmol has a BABIP of .310 this season instead of .293. That is not a major difference, it just shows that hitters are making better contact against Marmol this season. However, hitters this season are hitting .214 overall against Marmol, nearly 70 points higher than what hitters were batting against Marmol last season. On top of that, Marmol has a WHIP of 1.40 this season compared to 1.18 in 2010. The other issue for Marmol is that he has fallen in love with his slider, and has too much confidence in it. As Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly stated during today’s game, Marmol “has gone to the well too man times” with his slider. This season, Marmol has thrown his slider 61.8% of the time, and his fastball, 38.2% of the time. That is an increase of nearly 3% from last season with his slider, and a decrease of nearly 3% with his fastball. There is no question that the slider is Marmol’s best pitch, but when he throws it exclusively–and more times than not it is out of the zone–hitters will layoff of the pitch and wait for Marmol to throw a pitch inside the strike zone. Which of course, is when Marmol begins to struggle.

Despite fan speculation suggesting the Cubs should look to trade Marmol, I do not see the team doing such a move. Marmol, when on, is one of the game’s best closers. But with the exception of Mariano Rivera, every closer will go through a two or three weeks span where they go through command issues and thus struggle closing out games. Marmol is no different. I fully expect him to regain form after taking two or three games off from closing.