Skip to content

Carlos Marmol, poor control, and unhittable relievers

Aug 19, 2009, 1:32 PM EDT

My entry this morning about the Cubs’ closer switch included a comment about how, despite 52 walks and 11 hit batters in 56.1 innings, Carlos Marmol “remains extremely difficult to hit” and is “the Cubs’ best bet for a shutdown guy.” That drew a few e-mails from Cubs fans, most of which basically noted that someone with such horrible control can’t be counted on in save situations.
I’m not necessarily disagreeing with that notion and did write in the same entry that Marmol “will obviously need to stop walking a batter per inning to have success” in the role. However, it seems as though people are focusing on Marmol’s control issues while overlooking just how unhittable he’s been. He’s the complete list of relievers from the past 50 years who’ve allowed fewer than 5.0 hits per nine innings while facing at least 250 batters:

                    YEAR      H/9
Eric Gagne          2003     4.04
CARLOS MARMOL       2008     4.12
Jeff Nelson         2001     4.13
Billy Wagner        1999     4.22
Troy Percival       1995     4.50
Armando Benitez     2000     4.62
Armando Benitez     1999     4.62
Troy Percival       1996     4.62
J.J. Putz           2007     4.65
Armando Benitez     2004     4.65
Vicente Romo        1968     4.70
Jim Brewer          1972     4.71
Ugueth Urbina       1998     4.80
Andy Messersmith    1968     4.87
CARLOS MARMOL       2009     4.95

Marmol, Troy Percival, and Armando Benitez are the only relievers to allow fewer than 5.0 hits per nine innings in multiple seasons. Last season Marmol held batters to 4.12 hits per nine innings on a .135 batting average and this season he’s held batters to 4.95 hits per nine innings on a .163 batting average. Oh, and Marmol narrowly missed cracking the above list for a third time with 5.32 hits per nine innings in 2007.
Yes, throwing the ball over the plate will be very important for his chances of emerging as an elite closer, but you can often get away with poor control when you’re giving up one hit every two innings. Since becoming a full-time reliever three years ago, he has a 2.49 ERA and 277 strikeouts in 213 frames while allowing 4.7 hits per nine innings. He’s allowed more walks (128) than hits (112) during that time.

  1. JL - Aug 19, 2009 at 7:22 PM

    I don’t think you can legitimately treat his average production thus far in his career as representing his current abilities. If we were talking about 2007-2008 Carlos Marmol, sure, I would have no problem seeing him as an elite reliever. But things just haven’t quite worked out the same for him this season. His walk rate has literally (okay, figuratively) blowed up this year. Maybe it will be just a blip from a career-level perspective, but it’s a big enough blip to give one significant pause when considering his effectiveness going forward.

  2. TwinsFan - Aug 19, 2009 at 8:06 PM

    In addition to these nifty stats, it’s possible Marmol’s concentration/performance will improve upon promotion to the closer’s role, a la Broxton/Franklin.
    Let’s face it, in a fair world Marmol would have been declared closer by the start of last year. I say now he kicks it up a notch.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

This was 'the perfect baseball game'
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. S. Kazmir (5445)
  2. G. Springer (3773)
  3. M. Machado (3085)
  4. K. Uehara (2741)
  5. C. Kimbrel (2669)
  1. B. Harper (2664)
  2. D. Pedroia (2520)
  3. J. Reyes (2469)
  4. J. Chavez (2433)
  5. C. Granderson (2413)