Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Carlos Marmol

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2009 Recap: Carlos Marmol

I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't figure out Carlos Marmol. There probably isn't a more frustrating player on the entire club. For two years, Marmol was lights out and couldn't be hit. Well, he still can't be hit, but now he just walks batters.

Take a look at the numbers:

In 74 innings, Marmol only gave up a 43 hits. That's pretty impressive.

It gets better. Marmol punched out 93 batters for an 11.91 K/9 ratio. That's just nuts, I mean his stuff is so good even during a bad year for him, he still leads the team in K/9.

Riddle me this, how does a man that struck out 93 and only gave up 43 hits end up with an 1.46 WHIP?

It doesn't seem possible. His H/IP was a good .581, which should have led to an easy good WHIP, but sadly it did not, because 2009 Carlos Marmol forgot how to throw strikes until the bases were loaded. Marmol ended up walking 65 batters.

I'll write that again......65! That's almost one an inning, which is just insane with his stuff. Only two Cubs had more walks. Rich Harden had 68 (141 IP), and Carlos Zambrano 78 (169 IP). A reliever  can't be ahead of all of your other starters in walks. I mean, come on, Ryan Dempster had 65 in 200 IP.

Marmol seems to be the closer in waiting for 2010, but we all thought that in 2009 and look what happened. I think the only thing that keeps that from happening this year would be bringing in a guy like Billy Wagner, which I'm not saying we should do.

Marmol needs to take the winter and find his release point again, because if he does the Cubs have a lights out closer in 2010, which is something the Cubs really need.

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Game Recap: Reds 7, Cubs 5 -- Carlos Marmol isn't the change we are looking for

Game Recap
Randy Wells joined today the increasingly full list of Cub starters who struggle to get out of the 4th inning, although the Cubs still almost managed to escape with a win.  Our heroes were down 5 runs when, in the middle innings they launched a Geovany Soto-led charge. 

The Cubs catcher hit 2 RBI-scoring doubles in back-to-back innings, which -- along with run-contributing hits by Aramis Ramirez and Bobby Scales -- tied the game at 5 until the 9th inning.  That was when Carlos Marmol stepped in and proceeded to cough, hack, and vomit up the lead after having gotten the first 2 outs of the inning via a double play.  It was at that point that Marmol walked Johnny Gomes and Kevin Barker, surrendered a 2-run double to Drew Sutton, and to add injury to insult plunked Paul Janish.  And that was the way it ended, with Carlos Marmol doing a Walk of Shame off the mound after he managed to get a strikeout to end the inning.

On a side note, I have to admit that sometimes I want to read Dusty Baker's excuses as to why the Reds have sucked so badly these last few years.  But really, I can't do it.  I just can't bring myself to read his words. Still, if you're a Reds fan and you've stumbled across this website, (here are a few Google keywords to help you get here -- Dusty Baker sucks, Dusty Baker is a fraud, Dusty Baker should be fired, how Dusty Baker tricked the Reds into hiring him, hot MILFS in wild action with a Dusty Baker look-alike) you should tell me if any of the following sounds familiar:

  • We just don't have the horses, dude.
  • I'm not saying that the ownership hasn't got me some good players, but in a league with the Cubs and Cardinals they need to open up the wallet a bit ... dude.
  • I'm sure we've got some young, talented players here who could help us win.  But baseball is an earn it game, dude, not a give it game.  I can't just give those guys a job.  I used to play with Hank Aaron, and it took me a long time to crack that same lineup as him, dude.  Anyway, I gotta give my guys (aka: the veterans on the team) their at bats so they can make their bonuses, but if these kids can earn their way into the lineup (magically without getting actual play time) then you bet I'll play them.
  • We never had a lot of young talent in San Francisco or Chicago, it was always just a good group of veterans.  That's why I got this unfair reputation of not starting rookies, dude.

And that's Dusty Speak 101 for you right there.  Reds fans, we pity you, honestly.  We wouldn't wish Dusty Baker on our worst enemies ... not even the White Sox/Cardinals.

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Reds 2 -- Hooray, Carlos!

Really, there were five key players in tonight's win over the Reds.

First off, we had the Cubs' True Ace, the Second Son of God, Randy Wells.

Last time out, Cub fans were hoping Randy could pitch a good number of innings since the bullpen had been worked so hard in the few games before. This time, Cub fans found themselves in exactly the same place.

Last time, Wells responded by throwing eight innings. Tonight, he got through 7.1 innings pitched, before Key Player #2 John Grabow came on to get an inning-ending double play ball (after hitting a batter, if I remember correctly).

Perhaps the best synonym for "ace" that defines Randy Wells these days is "stopper." When the Cubs have really needed a shutdown performance, a bunch of innings while holding the opposition's offense in check, Randy's given it to them. I think in the postgame press conference, Lou himself posed a question, which was something to the effect of: "Where would we be without this guy?" It's a pretty scary question, actually.

Wells and Grabow covered innings one-thru-eight on the mound. Before we talk about the pitching in the ninth, let's talk about the two Cub hitters with RBIs this evening.

First off, kudos to Mike Fontenot (KP #3). Mike was able to put a good swing on a Aaron Harang fastball with two men on, giving the Cubs a nice 3-0 lead that would end up being enough to win the game tonight. Good to see, indeed.

Also, Derrek Lee (KP #4) was credited with an RBI tonight. His double chased Aaron Harang from the mound, and gave the team even more cushion in the ninth inning.

Speaking of the ninth, let's get back to the pitching. The reliever Piniella went with to close out tonight's win was Carlos Marmol (KP #5), as Kevin Gregg was suffering from a little bit of a dead arm (a completely reasonable response to having thrown 38 pitches two nights before, and 10 the day after that).

Personally, I was kinda hoping he'd keep Grabow in for another hitter, just to see if he could get some additional outs before going with the Human Walkman. But with the Walkman he went, and so the fun began.

Marmol walked the leadoff guy, and gave up a single as well before eventually facing Alex Gonzalez with two men on. In what ended up being an 11-pitch at-bat, Carlos hung about five sliders to Gonzalez (this is by no means an exaggeration--at least five breaking pitches were thrown middle-up). Gonzalez fouled four of them off, before making Carlos pay on the fifth.

Fortunately, Willy Tavares sucks really hard, and Carlos was able to escape the jam with the next batter and preserve the win. But man, was it fun in the meantime!

At the end of the day, the Cubs are back in first place. Cool!

Go Cubs.

Game Recap: Cubs 2, Marlins 5 -- Offense, 'Pen Fail

The obvious reason for why this game went to crap had to do with Carlos Marmol walking two Marlin batters in the bottom of the 8th inning. If he gets outs, maybe we go a little longer, maybe the Cubs score later on, and so on and so forth.

But really, the offense wasn't exactly killing the ball tonight either. I don't know how many additional outs the Cubs would have needed to give the hitters enough time to take the lead. The Cubs were 1-for-12 at the top of the line-up, with Derrek Lee collecting the only hit among the first three Cub hitters.

Volstad was good. All we could muster off of him was a bloop and a blast, and that happened relatively late in the game.

For the Cubs, Harden was decent; 11 Ks is awesome, but five innings is not. Harden also gave up an RBI double to the opposing pitcher.

On a positive note, John Grabow's debut went well. He did walk a batter, but retired the next three Marlins hitters he faced.

In the end, I'm chalking this one up as an off night for the offense. Let's put some more pressure on the starting pitcher in tomorrow's game.

Go Cubs.

Game Recap: Cubs 7, Sux 8 -- Lame.

Game Recap
We might go graphic-less tonight because Kurt is getting married. Happens, I guess.

None of today's pitchers were particularly effective. Sucks. Dempster threw 104 pitches, 55 for strikes. That means he threw a lot of balls--49, to be exact. (See what I did there? Subtraction is fun!)

I guess the hitting was pretty good, though. Remember that game where the Cubs had eleven hits, seven walks, and three runs? In today's game, the Cubs had fewer hits, less than half the walks--and more than twice the runs. Something about timely hitting, maybe, since the Cubs only had one extra-base hit (a double from Soriano).

At least Marmol didn't walk anybody? Eh. Whatever.

Congratulations, Kurt. Go Cubs!

Gamecast: May 17th vs. Astros

Brian Moehler (0-2, 8.44 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (4-1, 4.54 ERA)

Story Lines
I spent a good hour writing a post this morning that I promptly lost when trying to add the graphic to the left. So, this is going to be a lot shorter than I wanted this morning.

There are a few things that caught me eye yesterday about Cecil Cooper, who might be the next great Dusty Baker. After the Astros scored four runs to the tie the game, they had runners on first and second with no outs. What does Cecil do? Well, he lets Jason Michaels swing away and the Cubs get out of it without further damage.

Then, in the bottom of the 9th after Bobby Scales moved to second on the sac-bunt, Cecil decides to pitch to Alfonso Soriano instead of pitching to Ryan Theriot. I know Theriot has five home runs this month, but you have to put the double play in order. Anyway, lets move on.

Milton Bradley makes his return today after his one-game suspension. Milton was starting to hit when he had to sit this week, and he hasn't played since Wednesday. Hopefully he isn't rusty from the lack of playing time.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - this might be a little early, but he was 1-for-3 with a walk yesterday, including putting the Cubs pu 1-0. He looked better yesterday, but he really doesn't deserve to be in the hot section. It has been a long year for Derrek, so I'm happy to see him do anything positive.

Micah Hoffpauir - Well, if Derrek Lee winds up on the DL at some point, I'm pretty sure the Hoff will do better than Phil Nevin a few years ago. He had a huge two-run home run yesterady that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead at the time.

Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol - they both looked really strong yesterday, the rest of the bullpen not so much.

Who's Not
Kevin Gregg and Aaron Heilman - That brings us to the 9th inning. These two were pretty bad yesterday, but Lou said that Gregg would be out there again today if the there was a save situation.

Mike Fontenot - I have a feeling that Mike Fontenot might be losing some playing time. He was 0-for-4 yesterday, and hasn't shown any signs of breaking out.

The Cubs really should pick up their sixth straight win today, but crazy things happen in baseball. The Cubs are all along in second place, and could be in first place tomorrow if they win and the Brewers lose.

Salvation and the Solution

Woo, read this blog title again. Sounds pretty heavy.

For about a week now I've been promising a closer look at the Cubs bullpen, particularly at Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. They were supposed to be the iron support that held up the pen. Instead they've been as shaky and inconsistent as every other mope in the bullpen and they are leaving Cub fans with sick stomachs and lowered expectations. But how bad are they?

Through a month of the season, Gregg and Marmol have been flat-out mediocre. On the surface they have combined to make 34 appearances, pitching 30.1 innings of work, surrendering 25 hits, walking 24, and striking out 36. Their combined ERA is 4.15. 49 runners in 30 innings is not exactly stunning.

But looking at the specifics, we see the following.

Kevin "Salvation" Gregg
April 26th is an important date for Gregg. Before that date, he'd pitched 7 innings, surrendering 8 hits, 5 walks, and 5 earned runs - that's an ERA of 6.43. He was also 1 for 2 in save attempts.

Since April 26th, Gregg has thrown 8.1 innings, surrendering 7 hits, 5 walks, and 2 earned runs - that's an ERA of 2.16, and he's been 5 for 5 in save attempts. Obviously the bad remains the walks. I'm not sure if it's a pitcher problem or a strategy problem. Maybe Gregg needs to challenge the hitters more than he has. Then again, 3 of his 5 walks since April 26th came in one outing.

Carlos "The Solution" Marmol
For Marmol, his season begins and ends on April 29th. That was the date in which he got beaten like a dog that just pissed all over Mike Tyson's bearskin rug. Before April 29th, Marmol had pitched 7.2 innings, allowing 6 hits, 3 walks, and 2 earned. His ERA was 2.35. Since April 30th, Marmol has pitched 7 innings, allowing 4 hits, 7 walks, and 1 earned run. That's an ERA of 1.29. Again, the walks are troubling - especially considering Marmol's history of losing control. The Cubs can't pretend April 29th never nappened, but any stat-head knows that to give a fair account you remove the best and worst number and average out the rest. On average, Marmol has been fine.

Don't Blow It
Obviously these are just 2 guys in the bullpen. Their success in May has been great, but the Cubs are still trotting out Neal Cotts and Dave Patton every couple of days and Aaron Heilman has alternated between the mundane and the miraculous. But while neither Gregg nor Marmol have been without their problems, we should feel comfortable when the Cubs enter the 8th with a lead. The trick now is to have two reliable options for the 7th and three reliable options for the 6th.

That's a tall order.

2009 Player Previews - Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol

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Can you believe the season is only a day away? I don’t know about you, but this has been the longest spring ever. So, I have the honor of second to last player preview, unless we decided to look at the batboys or David Patton, if he makes the team. Until then, lets take a look at another bullpen arm.

Coming into this season, everybody thought (including me) that Carlos Marmol would be the closer for the Cubs. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Marmol’s accession to the top spot in the pen. After hedging about joining the World Baseball Classic, Marmol pitched for the Dominican, where he eventually blew a save against the Netherlands. The Netherlands? That’s almost as bad as the Pirates losing to community college in Spring Training (which did happen).

The one thing that I love about Lou Pinella is that he wants competition in Spring Training. For the most part, it works. Guys like Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot are living proof. This year he opened up the closer’s role, and Kevin Gregg stepped up to challenge Marmol. With WBC and a spotty spring, Lou chose Gregg, who hasn’t given up a run all spring. Marmol’s been wild this spring, hitting five and walking two. That’s led to his 4.35 ERA. We can only hope that the Netherlands incident hasn’t carried over to the Cubs.

Marmol has been a workhorse for two seasons, and I’m convinced that his exploits are a major reason the Cubs are two time NL Central Division Champions. In the past two seasons, Marmol has thrown 156 2/3 innings, while striking out 210 with his slider. There are times where he relies on the slider too much, and it has got him in trouble at times when he couldn’t locate his fastball. Last season, he only allowed 40 hits in 87 1/3 innings, which translates into an .0927 WHIP. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Still, with all those numbers, I’m glad Lou gave the closer spot to Gregg. Now, he can continue to use Marmol in the situations where the Cubs need a strikeout or two innings of relief. That being said, Lou does need to balance him out a little bit, because he has looked less than sharp at times. The Cubs have a serious problem, and little depth if Marmol isn’t lights out again this season, but I’m not worried (well, at least not yet).

Closers, Ex-Govs and Caps. Oh my.

I don’t often agree with Sun-Times columnist Greg Couch. Hell, I’m not even agreeing with him now actually. I’m merely recognizing that the words he wrote today happened to fall into an order that made sense for about a paragraph.

In his most recent column, Couch wrote this...

“Something weird is happening here with the Cubs. Understand this: The latest news is about Carlos Marmol. It's not that Kevin Gregg is the Cubs' new closer, but that Marmol is not.”

He them promptly followed up this kernel of logic with about 700 words of non-sensical rambling. No wonder the Sun-Times is going bankrupt (Hey-O).

But Couch is right in the sense that the real news here is about Marmol and not Gregg, but for a reason that I think is less obvious. (Full disclaimer first: I am a supporter of Gregg as the closer over Marmol. Big deal. You wanna to fight about it?)

Kurt and Rob already discussed the two sides of the Great Closer Debate of 2009 with reasonable arguments for both pitchers, but maybe Lou is telling us something about the state of the bullpen. A while ago, I wrote a post about the bullpen turnover and how the current ‘pen looks almost completely different than the ’08 model. Now things look even more different. When it’s all said and done (and the fate of the Shark is decided), Marmol could very well be the only significant returning reliever.

While it’s true that Gregg had an excellent spring, perhaps Lou’s decision to give Mr. LensCrafters the closing role was based on his need to have some sustainability and familiarity in the bullpen. Lou knows what Marmol can do and he knows what Marmol is good at.  But for guys like Gregg, Heilman and Vizcaino, there’s going to be an adjustment period.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think Lou would be afraid to take a chance on Marmol as the closer if he had confidence in the rest of his bullpen. So while I think Gregg is probably the right choice for the start of the season, I’m also worried about the state of the ‘pen.

Wrigley (expletive) Field

Strange article in the Trib today about Blago’s secret talks with Tribune Co. over the state purchasing Wrigley Field. The story has cameo appearances from familiar Cubs names like Sam Zell, Crane Kenney, John McDonough, Lou Piniella and even Larry Rothschild.

I knew Ex-Gov was a fan, but he might as well have been the third base coach with all the contacts he had in the organization.

Anyway, the article says that Blago was trying to save Wrigley from the evil powers of Old Man Zell, who wanted to demolish the stadium and erect a new park in the mold of Coors Field. Or maybe Blago just wanted to hold the sale of the Cubs and Wrigley Field hostage until he could force Zell to fire Chicago Tribune journalists who criticized him?

I highly doubt that Zell wanted to build a new stadium. The dude probably wanted to sell the Cubs and Wrigley from Day 1. Why would he waste time building a new stadium? so the hostage theory makes more sense to me.

The moral of this story is that Blago is not really a Cubs fan. How do I know this? Well, if he was threatening to slow the sale of the team/stadium for his own personal gains, then that means he had no regard for the Cubs’ attempt to trade for Jake Peavy. Clearly the team cannot get Peavy until the sale is final. Why would a true Cubs fan get in the way of that? Answer that question sir!

Plus all those expletives makes him sound more like a Sox fan to me.

Victory over the Red-Bill Caps?

On cubs.com, everyone’s favorite “journalist” Carrie Muskat had one of her always entertaining mailbag articles in which she answered questions from fans just like you.

One reader asked about the disappearance of the CoolFlo helmets and the reemergence of the standard batting helmet.

For those of you not as uni-obsessed as I am, the Cubs wore the new, futuristic CoolFlo helmets last season. The new helmets have fancy vents and are supposedly more comfortable than the older models. However, the team returned to the standard model this spring and will use the older version in the 2009 season. According to Muskat, this is because the CoolFlo helmets broke too easily. Tell that to Sammy Sosa’s face.

Anyway, while this was something I have been wondering for the past few weeks, Muskat drops some intriguing info in at the end of her answer.

“Also, no red bill on their caps,” she writes.

Wait, what? Does this mean the Cubs have finally decided to ditch the horrendous red-bill road caps that I despise with my every waking breath? Or are the simply not going to be wearing red on their away batting helmets anymore?

Damn you Muskat! Why do you taunt me like this? These 7 words are going to haunt me until Opening Day!

Viva la all blue caps. The revolution lives.

Closing is 80 percent mental, 40 percent physical

In which I provide a counterpoint to Kurt's earlier post:

In other words, Kurt, you ignorant slut!

For most of last year, Kurt went out here and bemoaned the overwork and certain breakdown of one Carlos Marmol, and for most of last year, I went out here and told Kurt to get a grip, and then what happened is that Marmol DID go into his July slump, whereupon he was treated more gently, and lo and behold, he corrected himself, found his slider again, and was dominant down the stretch.  So therefore Kurt was correct in this instance, and thus we should take appropriate heed when he worries about Marmol's workload.

But, when it comes to Closer 2009, a few points:

I think we can all agree, first of all, that Marmol has a much greater upside than Kevin Gregg.  Marmol's slider is a very special pitch that only a few men possess.

I also believe that Kurt's current worry may be an extension of last year's worry, in that while the "closer" only is asked to get three outs in today's game, the "eighth-inning" guy is sometimes asked to enter the game in the seventh inning, and thus may pitch to substantially more innings that the "closer".  And since Marmol's slider is dependent on not only the health and soundness of his right arm, elbow, shoulder and wrist, but more importantly his ability to CONCENTRATE on throwing said pitch, keeping him as fresh as possible is key.  I think that is what Kurt is saying, and I agree with this, and I think that the "eighth-inning" guy in today's ballgame should be treated with as much care and respect as the "closer".  The way Cubs games have gone the past several years, both men are equal, key performers.

I think we can also all agree that while Marmol blew leads in not only Spring Training, but also in the WBC as well as in Winter ball, Gregg did not give up a single run.  If a true competition existed, which it did, Gregg won it fair and square.

And it is that competition, and Marmol's comment about how it didn't exist, is what worries me about him, and what convinces me that he is not yet mature enough to close.  When asked if the WBC hurt him in the competition, he commented that it didn't, because they (Cubs management) knew what they were going to do from the beginning.

I mean, I am not on the roster, nor am I a beat writer, who has been privy to all the conversations had between Hendry, Piniella, Rothschild, and Gregg and Marmol this spring.  Marmol was, and maybe he knows something we don't.  I can only go by what was said to the media, the recent history of the two men, and the results this spring.  And in the interests of disclosure, I have a lusty man-crush on Marmol and his filthy slider, and I in turn have no respect whatsoever for saves earned on the behalf of the Miami Marlins, who have not played an important game in five years.

I am also somewhat understanding of Marmol's disappointment.  I am glad to see he WANTS the role. (Unlike, say, LaTroy Hawkins a few years back)  But Marmol has absolutely no reason to feel that he has earned the autonomy to feel entitled to the role.  A Trevor Hoffman has, a Mariano Rivera, perhaps even to a certain extent the 2004 Joe Borowski could claim a certain sense of entitlement.  But not the 2009 Carlos Marmol.  Or even the 2009 Kevin Gregg. 

Marmol has pitched decently this spring, even managing to find the grip on his deadly slidepiece in the desert, no mean feat.  Even if Gregg had posted similar results, I feel Marmol's past contributions to the Cubs should tip the scales in his favor.  But from my vantage point here in middle America, Gregg threw conclusively better this spring, and if Marmol had stated that he was disappointed, but understands that Gregg had a Great Spring and won the job fair and square, then I would feel much better about Marmol's mental maturity than I do now.

Because Carlos Marmol was immature enough to suggest that his coaches and management were LYING about the closer competition, then that tells us that he has some growing up to do.  And, therefore, I don't want someone who has some growing up to do getting our last three outs. 

Nobody is going to get those last three outs every time, not even Saint Brad Lidge.  Physically, men fail, and mentally, men let up from time to time.  But I need to see that mentally, you are tough enough to accept what life deals you today, and go out tomorrow and fix it!  Marmol's statement suggests he has some work to do in this regard. 

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