To Close Or Not To Close?


When the season concludes on Wednesday, their will likely be a lot of finger pointing done by the fans in search of a scapegoat for the 2011 season. While former general manager Jim Hendry and manager Mike Quade are likely going to be the two scapegoats once all is said and done, there is one player who stands out above the rest as one of the main reasons why the Cubs have been such a disappointment this season.

Going into the season, the strength of the team was believed to be the bullpen. With closer Carlos Marmol fresh off of a three year extension, and Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood in the mix as the set-up guys the Cubs bullpen was believed to be strong enough to keep the Cubs relevant for most of the season. Both Wood and Marshall have done an extraordinary job in their role with the team, however, Marmol has left a lot to be desired.

Marmol has been a shell of his former–d0minant–self, as the closer has a major league high 10 blown saves. In addition to his major league leading 10 blown saves, Marmol’s save percentage of  .773 is the worst in all of baseball. Last winter, their was debate as to whether the Cubs should entertain trade offers for Marmol or sign the closer to multi-year extension. Hendry chose the latter option. and now Marmol is on board for the next two seasons as he is owed $16.8 million over that span. Though, now there could be a greater case to be made for the Cubs to trade Marmol than ever before.

Yesterday, Marmol’s season reached a new low point. Prior to yesterday’s game against the St Louis Cardinals, one of Marmol’s many blown saves this season was in July against the Washington Nationals when a wild pitch from Marmol brought home the winning run. Fast forward to the bottom of ninth inning yesterday when Marmol entered the game with the Cubs leading 1-0 over the Cardinals. Marmol allowed a base hit to Matt Holliday before walking another three batters that forced Holliday home to tie the game. The game ended with Marmol throwing a wild pitch that plated the winning run for the Cardinals and kept their post-season hopes alive.

After the game concluded, speculation arose as to whether or not Marmol is going to be the Cubs’ closer in 2012. When he is right, Marmol has a whirl-wind of talent. The issue is that Marmol’s delivery is so unorthodox that many have suggested that it was only a matter of time before Marmol sustains a substantial injury or begins to lose effectiveness. As I have mentioned on numerous of occasions, Marmol’s delivery to the mound included the dreaded “inverted W” that is a common pre-cursor to major arm injury for a pitcher.

The obvious problem with Marmol is is his control. That problem is never going to be fixed if Marmol continues to pitch with the same unorthodox delivery. Assuming Greg Maddux remains with the organization, the Cubs should make it their priority that Maddux works extensively with Marmol this off-season to correct his delivery. Maddux’s reputation of mentoring pitchers speaks for it’s self, as Marshall has been one of biggest beneficiaries.

As for whether or not the Cubs should trade Marmol, I do not think that is a realistic option just yet. When trading a player, it is a two-way street. I’m sure the other 29 teams in baseball have taken note of Marmol’s struggles this season, and because of that fact, Marmol’s trade value can not be as high as it was last season. If the Cubs are going to trade Marmol, they are likely going to make sure they are able to acquire his replacement as part of the trade or make sure that one of their young bullpen arms is ready to make that transition. Neither of those scenarios appear to be all that realistic, as Marmol’s value is probably is not high enough for the Cubs to be interested in the idea of shopping their closer.

There is no hiding the fact that Marmol has struggled this season, but correcting his delivery is what could allow Marmol to regain his dominant form.