Coming into the season, we knew the Chicago Cubs weren’t going to be very good.
What was even more evident was that their bullpen is less than stellar. Okay, so it’s a few notches below that even, but Carlos Marmol was expected to rebound and serve as the more reliable arm out of the bullpen.
He hasn’t done that. In fact, early on in the season, we’ve seen the continued decline of the once dominant reliever. And that demonstration continued against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
Jeff Samardzija tossed a gem for the Cubs, striking out nine before being pulled with two outs in the seventh. Marmol was called upon in the eighth to get the four-out save.
Marmol blew his second save of the season, allowing Matt Holliday to crush a two-run homer heading into the ninth inning. It’s the second blown save and third time Marmol has blown a lead this season for the Cubs. His ERA currently sits at 6.35 on the season, and he’s walked six hitters in 5.2 innings.
It’s clear that Marmol doesn’t have the stuff he once had. We’ve seen him dazzle with the slider a few times this year, but it’s been in situations where the Cubs either weren’t in a save situation because they had a big enough lead, or they were already trailing. But that slider isn’t very effective, and his velocity is down, as it has been for the past couple of seasons.
I don’t know that the Cubs could find a trading partner for Marmol at this point, unless he can turn it on and start to turn heads again. But Dale Sveum would be wise to consider other options at closer, though there aren’t exactly a wealth of options in this ‘pen.
One guy I’ve been a fan of for some time, and others are starting to notice as well, is James Russell.
After last season’s disaster of trying to put him in the rotation, Russell has proven to be a more than capable reliever. He has yet to allow a run in eight appearances this season, and picked up his first win of the year against the Cards on Tuesday. However, the fact that he’s a lefty makes him better suited for a setup role, with a relief corps so short on southpaws.
Another guy to consider is Rafael Dolis. He’s still a bit raw, but he could be a very good reliever in the near future. Don’t sleep on Michael Bowden either.
While the Cubs won’t be able to rid themselves of Marmol, they need to seriously re-evaluate whether or not they are better off with him closing out games. They won’t win many ballgames, but they’ll win even less when Marmol comes out in the ninth.
As frustrating as it might be, the important thing Tuesday is that the Cubs got the win, their second consecutive in walkoff fashion against the Cards. That win gives them their first series victory of the season.