Carlos Marmol Is A New Man
Stop me if this sounds familiar. The Chicago Cubs enter the ninth inning of a game leading 4 to 3. Taking the mound for the Cubs in the ninth inning is their closer Carlos Marmol. Marmol immediately walks the first two batters that he faces. Then in typical Marmol fashion, the closer strikes out the next two batters. Marmol then gives a base-up that scores the game-tying run and the Cubs are faced with yet another blown save by their closer.
This was a common theme for the Cubs and Marmol during the 2011 scenario. The Cubs’ closer had a major league high 10 blown saves last season. Marmol’s 2011 season proved to be his most ineffective season yet in his career. In addition to his 10 blown saves in 2011, Marmol posted an ERA of 4.01 in 75 appearances. With a new regime in place that features a new manager in Dale Sveum and a new pitching coach in Chris Bosio, the hope from those within the Cubs’ organization is that the new coaching staff will bring changes to the way Marmol attacks hitters when he is on mound.
Doug Padilla is now covering the Chicago Cubs for ESPN Chicago. Don’t worry Bruce Levine fanatics, Bruce is still reporting on Cubs’ happenings as well. After being in attendance for one of Sveum’s first gatherings with the media in Spring Trainings, Padilla reports that changes are already on display for Marmol. In addition to dropping 15 pounds during the off-season, Marmol–with the help of Bosio and Sveum–has eliminated the “violent follow-through” in his delivery, and also will no longer be using his cut fastball.
"“We might have just told him to wipe out his cutter he threw last year,” Sveum said. “I think he admits it caused him a lot of problems and got him a little out of whack. He is what he is. He’s an impressive closer but he’s a slider guy with one of the best, unhittable sliders we’ve seen in a long time. That’s what he is.” ESPN Chicago"
While Spring Training is the prime time for optimism, these changes could be vital in Marmol returning to his 2010 form. 2010 being the season that Marmol posted an ERA of 2.55 to go along with 38 saves and 138 strikeouts. These are two fixes that many Cubs’ fans have been lobbying for from Marmol. With his delivery, Marmol’s follow through only put him at an instant disadvantage as he was not square with home plate and was vulnerable to sustaining an injury. Every individual involved in the baseball industry knows that Marmol has one of the best sliders in the game. The only person who seemed to have forgotten that in 2011 was Marmol himself. For whatever reason, Marmol fell in love with his fastball last season. More specifically, Marmol fell in love with his cutter. Marmol’s admiration for his cutter led him to to using the cutter in situations where he would normally use his slider. But with the cutter now out of the picture for the 2012 season, look for Marmol to revert back to using his slider more often which will lead to hitters striking out more often in 2012.
At 29 years old, the benefits of Marmol reaganing his top form are two-fold. First reason being it will provide the Cubs with some solidity in their bullpen. The only true veterans in the Cubs’ bullpen this season will be Marmol, and Kerry Wood. The rest of spots figured to be filled with young arms such as Jeff Beliveau, Chris Carpenter, and Marcos Mateo. Though one reliever who may be ready to break out in 2012 is James Russell, who will likely be the team’s primary reliever. Nonetheless, if the Cubs’ bullpen is successful in 2012, it likely will be a direct result from Marmol.
The second reason an improved Marmol in 2012 would benefit the Cubs is because of what it would mean for the trade market. At 29 years of age, Marmol may not be a fit for the long-term plan of the Cubs. Thus, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer may look to trade Marmol at some point this season. An improved Marmol would also mean an improved trade value for the Cubs’ closer. Closers are already over-valued when the season nears the trade deadline, so if Marmol has success during the first half of 2012, the Cubs’ front office could stand to receive a healthy return of prospects if they decide to pull the trigger on a trade involving Marmol.