One thing you'll probably figure out about me before long -- I'm a total dork. I'm a geek. A nerd. Wait, nerds are smart? Then I guess I'm just a geek. In any event, I love playing computer games, including OOTP Baseball, which allows users to run an organization over the course of decades. Will you win more than you lose? Can you build a dynasty? Will you avoid the overwhelming urge to cheat?
Cubs to extend Marmol - not a great idea
Anyway. One good thing about playing a computer baseball game is that I don't feel as much remorse when I trade away a star player as I'd feel if I did that in real life. Because sometimes, it makes more sense to move a player while he's good than it does to keep him around until he turns into a shadow of himself - and that's what the Cubs risk doing with Carlos Marmol.
There's no denying that Carlos puts up admirable numbers as a relief pitcher. We're talking 15.99 strikeouts per 9 innings last year, which is kind of crazy. If a starting pitcher could average that total and toss 220 innings in a season, then he'd be close to touching 400 strikeouts in a single season. Not to mention he had the highest WAR of any relief pitcher last year as well as the second best FIP. "WAR and FIP," you ask? "What the hell are they?" Not much - WAR stands for "wins above replacement," which means that Carlos Marmol and his insane slider was good enough to give the Cubs 3 more wins than what they would've gotten if they'd replaced him with an "average" player. (The problem with this stat is that, most often, the guys they'd actually replace players with have negative WARs.) And FIP is the calculated ERA of what a player would have had, "assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average." The short answer would've been: these stats make Marmol look good.
The problem is what his success has managed to conceal: Carlos Marmol can be totally erratic, insanely wild, and absolutely unreliable. Not only did he lead the league in K/9 last year, he also was third in the league in BB/9 at 6.40. My point, while somewhat contentious, is this: can you name many high-strikeout, high-walk pitchers who had long-lasting prolific careers?
I'm not suggesting that there haven't been any, but baseball is not the kind of sport that allows for success in the face of mistakes. Sooner or later, Marmol's going to lose velocity on his fastball, his sinker isn't going to sink as much, and he's still going to be walking an ass-ton of players. In other words, there's an expiration date on his arm, and it's coming up. It might even be 2011, although I'd assume he'll have at least one or two more years left in the tank.
Therefore, the Cubs need to reconsider. They have in Marmol an extremely valuable commodity. He's a high strikeout reliever who may actually be affordable. In fact, odds are that his value will never be higher. So why not put him on the market and see what he can net? Maybe it'll be a few young pitchers. Maybe for a few extra exchanged parts, the Cubs can land an immediate impact reliever and a second baseman whose presence on the roster doesn't make me throw up in my mouth.
Maybe the Cubs have to look past Marmol's big ears and see him as a number, a statistic, a commodity with value. Otherwise, just like half the pricey players on the roster, the Cubs run the risk of having yet another expensive pitcher that nobody - themselves included - wants.