For Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, the 2012 season may seem like two separate campaigns. What started out dismal for him and the Cubs turned around swiftly. Marmol has had tremendous success in the second half of the season. On Monday, September 10, Marmol saved the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Houston Astros. He ended it with a strikeout of Brett Wallace to complete the conversion of his 19th consecutive save opportunity.
Nineteen saves this late in the season looks mediocre, especially considering that the National League co-leaders in saves each have 35 at the start of play on September 11. However, remember the start that Marmol had. He was 2 for 4 in save opportunities through May while he walked 18 hitters in 12.1 innings and complied an ERA of 5.84. It got so bad that he lost his job as closer. He spent time on the disabled list and still came back as a middle reliever or setup man at best. Even then it looked bleak for Marmol. At that point, I started wondering if the Cubs would trade him and if any team would take him.
Then, in June, Marmol received another chance to close. Since then, he has converted 18 consecutive save opportunities. Add one from May, and he has his 19-save stretch. Granted, the Cubs have not given him or anyone else much chance to save games, but he has succeeded in most games in which he has pitched from June on. In addition to the saves, Marmol has also gone 2-2 with an ERA of 2.44.
The biggest reason for Marmol's turnaround is the pitch selection and reduction in walks. Early in the season, he threw mostly sliders and missed baldy with them. From June on, he has walked 22 in 34 innings. That ratio is still too high, but it by far beats his walk ratio from April and May. He is throwing more fastballs early in the count to get ahead. Marmol can hit the upper 90s. Then, when ahead in the count, he can use that devastating slider as his out pitch. He can now get out of innings even after walking hitters. Getting the final out without giving up the lead is what counts the most, and Marmol has delivered.
The Cubs may have solved their problem of who will close for them in the near future. That man has returned to the role of closer of the present. If Carlos Marmol can keep up this performance in 2013, then I look for the Cubs to win more games as they work to become contenders soon afterward.
Chicago Cubs, Carlos Marmol Player Page, cubs.mlb.com as of September 11, 2012.
Major League Baseball, Sortable Player Statistics, Pitching, mlb.mlb,com as of September 11, 2012.
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. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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