The numbers aren't pretty. And for the most part it hasn't been bad luck. Carlos Marmol's peripherals match his results. Marmol has a 6.08 ERA, but the FIP isn't any better at 6.36. We know about the walks -- he is giving out free passes at a rate of 7.09 per 9 innings pitched, but that's actually lower than last year.
The BABIP is roughly the same as it has been the past 3 years so we have to assume that something close to the league average (.300) is the new standard for Marmol, who was much more unhittable early in his career.
What has really hurt Marmol this year are the HRs. He has given them up at a rate of just a shade of over 2 per 9 innings pitched. Yesterday, he gave up two HRs in one inning and it resulted in perhaps the most frustrating loss since, well, since the last time Marmol gave up two HRs in the 9th inning -- way back in April in a loss to the Braves when the Upton brothers capped off a rally after being down 5-1 after 7 innings.
The HRs are a newest chink in Marmol's armor, which increasingly looks like it's been through a few too many battles. Marmol rates per inning the last 4 years have been less than one (o.24, 0.12, 0.61, and 0.64). At least part of that is likely some bad luck. The flyball per HR rate has skyrocketed to 20.7% from just 7.8% last year and ridiculous low rates of 2.6% and 1.6% in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, respectively.
That higher percentage of flyballs is the closest thing you can point to if you are looking for any silver linings -- any signs that Marmol is getting unlucky.
But even if you give him the benefit of the doubt and completely chalk up that HR rate to bad luck (and not simply hitters squaring him up more this season) then things are still not encouraging for Marmol's peripheral rates. His xFIP rate, which normalizes for HR rate, is still very high at 4.97. So, all other things being equal, even if he does cut HRs down to a league average rate, he'll still likely have mop-up reliever results.
So even the most optimistic fan doesn't much to cling to here when it comes to explaining Marmol's poor results this season.
It's not as easy to explain why those results are so poor this season. The velocity is still good (92.6 mph) and the slider is still somewhat effective, but nowhere near the dominant pitch it used to be -- but that was true last year as well. In fact, the horizontal movement on his slider has been in steady decline.
One other concerning trend is that the fastball, which was once effective enough to set up that nasty slider, has become more hittable each of the past 3 seasons. The Cubs want Marmol to throw more fastballs so that he can get ahead and set up the slider, but the truth is that that the fastball is getting hit and it hasn't really helped him walk less hitters. The changed approach with more fastballs seemed to fool hitters last year who were looking for sliders early in the count, but it appears advanced scouting reports have caught up again and now hitters are pouncing on that fastball.
Marmol has thrown more sliders again this year but it's diminished movement means it isn't good enough to bail him out anymore.
There has to be a question now as to how much value Marmol adds to this team. The frustration from fans is well-documented but there were also reports of frustration in the clubhouse yesterday. Even the normally cool and collected Alfonso Soriano lost it yesterday.
"I'm not like that, but sometimes I've got to let it go," he said. "I don't want to keep it inside of me. Now I feel better. I think everybody feels the same. We needed that game to go to St. Louis with confidence."
"When we have a 99 (percent) chance to win the game, it's very tough the last inning," he said. "Three outs left and we lost the game. It's unacceptable, especially when we're winning 3-0 and (Matt) Garza's pitching a very good game. It's hard to swallow. We thought we swept those guys and had some momentum going to St. Louis. … It's not a good feeling."
To top it off manager Dale Sveum, publicly acknowledged what he has likely known for awhile,
"There are only certain people that can get those last three outs sometimes," Sveum said. "We all know that he's gotten a lot of saves in his career. But for some reason now … he doesn't quite have the slider he used to, so it's not that easy. But something is going on in the other innings that's not going on in the last inning."
It sounds like the Cubs have given up on the idea of re-establishing Marmol's value in the closer role. While 2013 is already a lost year in terms of being able to contend, you still want to give your team a chance to win day in and day out.
It's hard to imagine this point that the Cubs can pick up value in any trade for Marmol. A middle reliever with control issues and a $9.8M isn't going to have other GMs banging ont the door.
Whether you look at this from a process view or a results view, Carlos Marmol just isn't the same pitcher anymore. Whether he can regain that remains to be seen, but the odds of that happening before the trade deadline seem pretty slim -- and even if Marmol does regain some of his mojo, teams will still be wary about trading for a reliever who hasn't been consistently reliable over the past 3 seasons.
The best move at this point is for both the Cubs and Carlos Marmol to move on. A change of scenery may do both sides some good.