2009 Player Previews - Sean Marshall
I already congratulated the young lad last week upon his winning the Great Fifth Starter Debate of 2009. I mentioned that I feel quite confident Marshall will easily match the output of last year's fifth starter, the never-lamented Marquis du Suck.
Why am I so confident? Well, first of all, Marshall is going to get more than the 28 starts Marquis made last year. Even if he doesn't win any more than the 11 games du Suck won last year, he will take up more innings (> 167) which makes life easier for the poor souls and confirmed arsonists in the pen. It will also make Larry Rothschild's life easier, and in turn Sweet Lou's, and in turn, our own lives will be fuller, more enriched, and much more pleasant.
But perhaps I expect more out of the 6'7" lefty. Maybe, based on this spring's stellar performances, I expect Sean Marshall to be this year's story of reDempster-tion.
Good lord, that was awful. Sorry. Really.
But can he take two steps up - go right from "bullpen guy", skipping over "serviceable starter", all the way to "All-Star"? Here are some things he has in his favor:
- size - delivers pitches with steep arm angle
- lefthandness - hey, if Bud Light can make a big thing out of "Drinkability", then I can adopt "Lefthandedness" as a desirable trait
- attitude and coachability - Marshall has done his best historical work while being directly tutored by Greg Maddux in 2006. Unlike many big leaguers, he demonstrates a willingness to learn and adjust.
- confidence - he is showing a confidence this year that has spread to his coaches and teammates, and in this game, having your team behind you is more than half the battle
- the so-called best offense in the league behind him
What Sean doesn't have in his favor is a track record. Dempster for his part had enjoyed a couple of productive years as a starter for Florida before wrecking his elbow. Dempster also ran up mountains the whole winter of 2007-8, and to my knowledge, Marshall wasn't running any mountains near his offseason home. It was also a Contract Year for Dempster - I'm not even sure Marshall will be arbitration eligible next year, with 2 years and change in MLB service time, so the lure of a big payday is not in Sean's immediate future.
Most national scouting sources rate Marshall as a poor man's Andy Pettitte, only with a twin brother instead of an asswipe friend. What this also means is that unlike the rest of the Cubs' rotation, Marshall doesn't have "great stuff" that overpowers hitters. His success will rely on his control, command, and any resulting matchup issues that may arise when opposing teams bench their left-handed hitters on days Marshall pitches.
Most published internet "projections" via standard tools seem to have been formed before he won the "fifth starter" role, which on a team with Tricky Rich Harden, will actually end up getting 32-33 starts in 2009. None of the tools projections show him with more than 110 innings - I project he will have above 180, hopefully well above 180. He has never thrown this many innings before, but prior to last year, Dempster hadn't thrown that many innings since 2002.
I am not saying just because Dempster took a quantum leap in 2008, that Marshall will necessarily make such a leap in 2009. But if attitude and pride have anything to do with it, then perhaps he will.