Though 2011 was a bad year all around for the Cubs, pretty much outside of Starlin Castro and Matt Garza, few players had a tougher year than that of Carlos Marmol.
The former All Star closer had his worst statistical season as a Cub, and every save, whether he locked it down or not, turned into an adventure. Marmol posted an ERA over four, walked 48 hitters in 74 innings, and blew 10 saves.
Those 10 blown saves are a startling number when you figure in the fact that prior to 2011, Marmol blew 12 saves in his entire career combined. Of course, these issues with walks isn’t anything new for Marmol.
Marmol has had a history of control issues, but they’ve often been offset by his absurd strikeout ability. In 2010, Marmol struck out 16 batters per nine. In 2011, that number fell to 12. Still a solid number, but not good enough to help him out of trouble when he’s walking six guys per nine.
Heading into the spring, we already know Marmol is going to be one of the focal points of this Cubs team. He’s one of the few big name guys, and is going to be expected to rebound in a revamped pitching staff.
Ahead of camp, Marmol shed quite a bit of weight in an effort to get back to his top form. He’s also working on his pitching mechanics, having already eliminated his cutter from his pitches.
Of course, the big question with Marmol is whether or not he’ll even be with this team for the entire season. Marmol was briefly mentioned as a trade candidate this winter, but didn’t find a new home like so many other closers did in the offseason. Nonetheless, a strong start could punch his ticket out of town around the trade deadline.
He’s still just 29. But he’s also making a healthy chunk of change. Even with the Cubs not expected to contend for a title this season, there are still a certain amount of expectations for many of the guys on this roster, one of them being Marmol. He’s expected to be a top tier closer in the Major Leagues, and I’d expect a return to that form this season.
The Cubs surely have a backup plan if Marmol should falter, most likely starting with Jeff Samardzija. But for now, Carlos Marmol is the Cubs’ closer and you can expect him to do whatever he’s going to have to do to bring it back together in 2012.