Cubs to extend Marmol - not a great idea

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?

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.

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  • "... can you name many high-strikeout, high-walk pitchers who had long-lasting prolific careers?"

    Well, Nolan Ryan comes to mind. And Bob Feller. Herb Score was headed for that kind of career before he got hurt. Closer to home, Kerry Wood has gotten a bit better at this, but he still does have his "Mitch Williams moments".

    Years ago, guys who had control problems tended not to ever see the Major Leagues ...

    But, the fact that there are so few that come to mind does kind of prove your point. And there are a lot more Ryne Durans than Nolan Ryans ...

  • You know what? Nolan Ryan is the perfect counterpoint to my statement. My gut reaction was to argue that he only gave up walks when compared to his era's pitchers, not compared to modern day ... then, I looked at his stats.

    Dude led the league in BB SEVEN times, and he gave up more than 200 twice in his career. TWICE IN HIS CAREER! That's crazy! Then again, Nolan Ryan pretty much defies every baseball convention, so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising.

    In any event, I'm sure I failed to make clear that I would prefer the Cubs shop Marmol, but only trade him if the deal is right. Better to have a few good years (and a few awful ones) to have zero good years and a fistful of busts.

  • Nolan Ryan isn't really a great counterpoint. Sure, he was an elite power pitcher, but he really wasn't all that dominant over his career. He only won one World Series -- very early in his career -- and although he had seven no-hitters, he really wasn't a consistent "ace". Much of Ryan's legacy is based on his big country boy image and his intimidating demeanor.... Not to mention that he stayed in the game well into his 40's. His longevity is something to commend, but there's really no evidence that his hanging-around for so long made his teams any better.

  • I'd argue that "Nolan Ryan didn't win World Championships" doesn't really mean anything. Players don't win Championships, teams do. (This trap of an argument can also lead to the whole "Player X doesn't know how to win, but Player Y does, hence the reason why Player Y has 3 World Championships and Player X has 0, despite Player X's many, many batting titles and gold gloves..." Pure bunk.)

    Ryan is undoubtedly one of the best pitchers to ever play the game. He was a dominant force, from his first game to his last, who exited baseball with a career ERA of 3.19, a fastball that still topped the mid 90's, and with a strikeout record that no pitcher will ever come close to touching. (In other words, in the statistical categories that he could actually CONTROL to some degree, ERA and strikeouts, he excelled.)

    He is also a perfectly legitimate example of a pitcher who can dominate the game for decades despite his tendency to walk batters, which is exactly the counterpoint to my "wild pitchers (almost) never have long, successful careers."

    Few have been longer, and even less have been more successful than Ryan's.

    But, I'd still like to shop Marmol if possible.

  • It's an admirable idea, Kurt, but the Cubs are still trying to act as though they are contenders in 2011. They won't trade Marmol because a large contingent of the fanbase would accuse them of waving the white flag. From the "we are contenders in 2011 and 2012" vantage point, this extension makes all the sense in the world.

  • I'm sure you're right, Eddie, although I'd stipulate that they should ONLY trade a guy like Marmol if they can get players who can help the team NOW.

  • Trade Marmol? You're dang right. He has a really great arm but if you watch him for any length of time it's his head that gets in the way. He's always trying to out think the batter instead of just firing bullets. That's why he walks as many as he does. The great reliefers, like Mariano, just say here it is, hit it if you can. Marmol has the stuff to do the same but his head won't allow it. Trade him while we can some value but an extension...no way.

  • We can't trade Carlos since the Cubs' goal for 2011 is to simply accumulate as many "Carlos" as possible...Big Z, Pena, and Silva.

    Also, paperwork is being prepared to change the names of two other players in order for them to improve their performance...Carlos Soriano and Carlos Fukudome. As the Carlos' go, so go the Cubs.

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