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Can Carlos Marmol Overcome Control Problems? a Fan’s Take
With all of the changes taking place on the Chicago Cubs roster from 2011 to 2012, one position remains unquestioned: the closer. Carlos Marmol will begin the season as the Cubs' full-time closer for the third straight season. Marmol assumed the role in the second half of 2009 and has continued as the #1 closer through 2011.
Marmol has saved 87 games since taking over in 2009. He has done so in 106 opportunities for a success rate of 82%. For his entire career, Marmol is 95 for 117 or 81%. He throws a hard fastball and has a nasty slider. Analysts on both ESPN and MLB Network have labeled his stuff "electric." That slider has led to a ratio of 1.30 strikeouts per inning and a .179 career batting average against. He can make the best hitters look sick - when he can control those pitches.
The problem comes from his control - or lack thereof. He walks far too many hitters. He has given up .65 walks per inning. Combining walks with hits leads to a career 1.28 WHIP, which can spell doom for a closer. In 2011, Marmol blew 10 saves, tied for the Major League lead. He suffered terrible control issues, especially in July when he walked 11 in 10 innings and had a 9.90 ERA. In his best month of the season, August, he walked only five and allowed five hits in 14 innings while converting 11 of 12 save opportunities.
New pitching coach's recommendations
New Cubs' pitching coach Chris Bosio has already begun working with Marmol to sort out those control issues. Bosio indicated that the problem was in Marmol's shoulders. When Marmol tries to throw too hard, he throws his shoulders out of line. Manager Dale Sveum indicated that if Marmol can keep his shoulders level, then he will have much better control. Better control will mean more strikeouts or at least far fewer walks. That will lead to more saves and Cub wins. Reducing the use of his cutter, which Marmol admitted gave him problems, and sticking with his two best pitches—the fastball and the slider—may also help. Good closers can succeed with one or two pitches.
Looking to the future
We Cub fans hope that Sveum, Bosio, and Marmol have found the problems and can correct them fast. The Cubs do not appear as if they will have the offense to overcome blown saves this year, so they will need Marmol to save every game that he can. At age 29, Marmol still has a many years left and likely as a closer. If he can regain his control while team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer continue to build and improve the team over the next few years, then Marmol could figure prominently in the future and hopefully help bring another postseason to Wrigley Field.
Can Carlos Marmol Overcome his control issues? I believe he can and will.
Carrie Muskat, No Looking Back: Marmol Ready to Lead, cubs.mlb.com, February 19, 2012.
Chicago Cubs, Carlos Marmol Player Page, cub.mlb.com.
Raymond grew up in Florida and began watching the Cubs on WGN in 1982. He became a fan in 1984 when Ryne Sandberg hit the two famous game-tying home runs off Cardinals closer and former Cub Bruce Sutter. Raymond then solidified his team loyalty when the Cubs won the division later that season and has been a fan ever since.
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