2010 Player Preview: Sean Marshall
It's not that Marshall's been bad for the Cubs. In fact, he posted a 3.23 ERA in 39.0 innings of relief last year, while racking up 7 holds. He did his job, and he did it well enough to be back in 2010, hopefully as a bright spot in an otherwise murky bullpen.
Over the span of his tumultuous career in Chicago, Marshall's made 134 appearances, including 59 lackluster starts. He's won 19, lost 29, and posted a mediocre ERA of 4.55 while allowing 390 hits and 149 walks in 379.2 innings of work. None of those stats are bad enough to hate him, nor are they good enough to expect success from him.
Chances are, if Piniella uses Marshall correctly in 2010, the Cubs lefty will toss between 50 and 60 innings of work, serving not as the LOOGY (lefties batted .243 against him, which is not good enough to warrant that role) but as a standard 5th/6th inning guy. What Lou should not do is use Sean Marshall in a starter's role.
I nicknamed him Doghouse, but he's still a bullpen option I'd trust over most of the other guys out there. He just as easily could be renamed "Reliable," or perhaps "Regular" (or "Depends"). Let's hope for the former, for many reasons.
The thing that makes Marshall so interesting to me is his mix of pitches. For example, did you know only 21% of his pitches thrown last year were a straight-up fastball? In contrast, nearly a third of his pitches were curve balls.
Marshall doesn't throw a fastball very often because he doesn't throw very hard. He averaged 87mph on it last year. What's worse, the vast majority of his pitches were thrown within 6mph of each other, between 81 and 87. Only his curve ball generates significant difference in velocity, which he throws at 71.
I'm afraid that, given his repertoire, it will be difficult for Marshall to ever make it through a major league line-up more than twice. But given the status of Lilly's shoulder, he may be asked to do that a few times at the beginning of the season. I bet he's the fifth starter through April, which'll give him something like three starts for the month. From there, who knows?