Carlos Marmol - THE singlemost highest risk/reward pitcher in all of baseball

Carlos Marmol - THE singlemost highest risk/reward pitcher in all of baseball
Strikeouts are fascist...let your fielders play the game, too

UPDATE: Wells, Coleman, Beef Wellington sent to Iowa.  Clevenger, Mather, DeWitt make the team.  I think we just pissed away a ton of trade value, but now you know how the team is shaping up.

Ran across this article by a saberween today, which firstly reminded me of the tenuous relationship between "fantasy" sports and the actual sports.  The fantasy team manager who employs Carlos Marmol and Dale Sveum, who honestly-to-God employs Carlos Marmol, have different goals.  For instance, both managers would be quite pleased if Marmol could come into a game and strike out the side on 9 pitches.  But the fantasy manager would be even happier if Marmol was allowed to pitch three innings, old-skool style and strike out 9 batters, whereas Ol' "u before e except after v" has to be aware that there is no way in hell that Marmol could pitch three innings in no less than 50 pitches, which would shelve the guy for, like, a fortnight.

But look past the differences and all the stats and negativity and hyperbole in the article and focus in on the grain of truth about 2/3rds down the page:

He's going to first need to prove his health, then show he has recaptured some of his lost fastball velocity, then show at least marginally improved command.
 

While the notion of Marmol's fraility (his crampy hand) may be overblown, those of us who have lived through the 'towel drill' days of Wood and Prior are understandably flustered about any injury news concerning our highly-paid and most-counted-on pitchers.  It very well could be that the hand cramping is a harbinger of continued troubles (was Zambrano ever the same pitcher after he started complaining of cramping?  No, he wasn't), but maybe it isn't.  If you are still enjoying your Honeymoon with Theo and His Merry Band of Lesser GMs, as I am, you may just chalk this up to some minor concern of a newly competent front office.  If the hand cramps are a symptom of something worse, then basically Marmol is effed, and so are we.

Assuming he is as physically fine as someone who has had nearly 400 relief appearences in the past five years can be, then let's consider his velocity.  There was talk earlier this spring from new Pitching Coach Chris Bosio about Marmol scrapping last season's cut fastball, and when I heard this, I was encouraged.  Aha, perhaps this is the source of last year's crippling loss of velocity!  Simply change his grip, and damn!  Back up to 97 without having to chew one of Sammy Sosa's Flintstone vitamins.  So the spring progressed, and Marmol got his ass handed to him, and then his hand hurt, and the velocity still isn't back.  Thus, if you go by the ESPN guy, without regaining his velocity, Carlos will never show any improvement in his command.

To that, I say bah.  Because sure, according to the article, in 2009 Marmol set a record for most walks-per-9 for relievers with more than 70 appearences, and his 2010 walks-per-9 weren't much better.  One problem, though, chief?  Unless your team is being run by a dimwitted semi-alcoholic (um...), a guy isn't going to GET 70+ appearences unless he's effective.  And as we noted out here more than once, Carlos Marmol set other records in 2009 and 2010, like most strikeouts-per-9 by ANY pitcher EVER, and lowest batting average against by ANY pitcher EVER, and highest swing-and-miss percentage by ANY pitcher EVER...so whether or not he ever gains command?

Fact that concerns only me: Carlos Marmol is my wife's favorite ballplayer ever.  It is easy to see why; he is a one-man high-wire act.  He has achieved a lot of saves the past three years with only an occassional and fleeting grasp of his command.  So if all you want is to "get the old Marmol back", then acheiving the ever-elusive "command" is not really necessary, at least in real life.  Oh, the fantasy league guy would prefer that Marmol never walk anyone or God forbid hit anyone with pitches, which he has also led all pitchers in the past few years, as a one-inning-closer.  But it can be argued that he has personnified the 'effectively wild' image since he became a reliever, and he managed to achieve some notoriety as the guy with the brass nutts and the electric arm who may not be all that certain about where stuff will end up.   No, all Marmol needs to do to get back to his 2008-2010 form is to get back the 6 mph on the fastball that he lost last year.  If that's all you want out of him, then just hope that he finds that 6 mph lying around somewhere in his underwear drawer.

Now.  If you have gotten this far, you may have noticed my somewhat incomplete buy-in on the Legend of Carlos Marmol.

We Cubs fans have always been fiercely protective of our own home-grown guys, because they don't come along so often.  If we routinely got 2 or three guys from our system every year, year in, year out, maybe we wouldn't SETTLE for what we DO get from guys like Marmol.  Somehow, we fans have to get past this mentality.  Maybe it starts with someone finally coming along and building a real system for us.  If so, then we still have a few years to wait.   If you don't want to wait that long, if you are like me, and want to start expecting excellence, to stop pinning our enjoyments on achievements of individual goals like Sosa home run records and Marmol swing-and-miss marks, and start caring about only one statistical column - the one on the far right where the first place team has a dash next to them.  Games Back.  And if we want to be the Games Back leader, we need a closer with command.

We need to start agreeing with the writers outside of Chicago, who only expect the best, who expect our closers to have command of their pitches, who expect our shortstops to have exceptional range, and expect our corner infielders and outfielders to have OPS ratings higher than other teams' second basemen.  So, in conclusion, the saberween only cares about his pathetic little computer team, but let's begin to understand something vital.  Both of us just want to win, and in most ways, the formula to get there remains the same. 

Expect your present and future Cubs to take that third step, the one that separates lovable losers from efficient winners.

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  • I don't mean to saber rattle, but does 'saberween' have something to do with 'sabermetrics'?

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