“I was leaving him in until he gave it up.”
That’s everything that any Chicago Cubs enthusiast needs to hear in regards to Carlos Marmol and his job security. According to ESPN Chicago, manager Dale Sveum made that comment when asked about how long he intended to stay with Marmol during the ninth inning of an Apr. 4 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead. After Marmol failed to record an out against the first four batters that he faced, the Cubs were up 3-2 with nobody out and runners on the corners, the speedy Andrew McCutchen at third base. After Marmol met with pitching coach Chris Bosio, Marmol struck out Pedro Alvarez and forced Neil Walker into a game-ending double play.
It was the second consecutive time that Marmol nearly blew a save when needing to record the last three outs of a 3-0 game. If one includes spring training, this was his fourth straight shaky performance. Even before then, erratic control was causing Marmol to walk too many batters.
Don’t expect Sveum to make any changes. “Almost a blown save” is still a save. That’s all Sveum cares about. He even defended Marmol’s outing in another comment for ESPN Chicago:
“He gave up hits; he wasn’t throwing the ball all over the place.”
That’s not entirely true. Marmol did walk Russell Martin. That left two runners on and nobody out for the No. 3 hitter, McCutchen. Marmol was fortunate that McCutchen didn’t do more damage to one of his meatball pitches than hit an RBI single.
In 1.1 innings pitched, Marmol has walked two batters and hit another person. That’s nearly one unchallenged base-runner per out. Marmol is either throwing the baseball all over the place or he’s throwing batting practice. Maybe cold weather has something to do with it. But if the starting pitching was any indication, then that weather should’ve helped Marmol.
So if you want Marmol to lose his closer role, then you’ll probably need to wait until he blows a save—at least one save. Sveum can use a shorter leash on days when his starting pitchers go seven-plus innings. That leaves more reinforcements in the bullpen if the game heads into extra frames.
But why wait? In 1.1 innings from Kyuji Fujikawa, he has retired all four of the batters that he has faced. This is Marmol’s third chance at this role and he’s still showing the same inconsistencies that have plagued him throughout his career. Even when Marmol is on, he’s inches away from falling off the ledge.
If the Cubs are just keeping him there for trade value, it’s not like they can’t increase that with solid work in middle relief. Pennant contenders need more than closers. Even if Marmol pitches well in these next three months, there’s a huge sample size that suggests that he’s unreliable for even a stretch run, much less a long-term extension as a closer.
I suppose $9.8 million doesn’t buy the peace of mind that it used to. It’s funny because the Cubs’ next opponent, the Atlanta Braves, pay $655,000 for a closer who’s coming off one of the most dominant two-year stretches in MLB history.
How ironic. Hope Arodys Vizcaino brought whatever he learned from them to Chicago.