Results tagged ‘ 2012 Player Profiles ’

2012 Player Profile: Alberto Cabrera

Alberto Cabrera could get a shot in the starting rotation in 2013. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Innings Pitched: 21.2 (25 G, 0 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 6.23 RA, 6.6 H, 7.5 BB, 0.4 HR, 11.2 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.1
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arb, First Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (94), Two-seam (94), Slider (83), Change (87)

If there’s a project worth keeping an eye on for 2013, it may be the one that pitching coach Chris Bosio started with Alberto Cabrera this season.

Bosio focused on making simple, yet fundamental, changes in pitchers this past Spring Training—things like grips, arm angles, pressure on the landing foot and other small tweaks that can unlock a pitcher’s potential. Cabrera was one of his earliest success stories, as Bosio had the (then) 23-year-old change his sinker grip, producing immediate results. The velocity of the pitch jumped into the mid- to high 90s, and it began darting away from left-handed hitters a lot like Steve Carlton’s slider, in the words of Bosio himself.

Now the Cubs feel they may have a future rotation candidate in Cabrera, who is slated to be stretched out in Triple-A Iowa to start next season.

There’s a lot to like with Cabrera, who was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. He stands 6-foot-4, has a live arm and throws with a free-and-easy delivery. In his first tour through the majors last season, he also showed an effective third pitch with his change-up.

He’s taken his lumps at every level along the way, but he’s shown the ability to bounce back and improve his second time through. The 2012 season represented his best yet in a number of areas, including a career-best 3.11 ERA in 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Nowhere was Cabrera’s improvement more apparent than in his strikeout rate, which doubled from about 15 percent a year ago to more than 30 percent this season. And he was able to more or less maintain that standard in his brief major league stint, in which he struck out more than 27 percent of batters faced. Meanwhile, his walk rate halved from 10.3 percent to 5.7 percent, though he struggled with free passes in the majors. But the development was apparent across several of his component stats.

Let’s take a quick look at Cabrera’s PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card). It’s a limited set of information based on just 21 major league innings, but it does provide a glimpse of his relative strengths against batters on both sides of the plate.

Against right-handed hitters, Cabrera largely relies on his four-seam fastball and slider, using power stuff to blow away hitters. He deals with left-handers, on the other hand, by mixing in a hard change-up that fades away from the batter like his sinker, but it travels about seven miles per hour slower. He can also mix in his slider, attacking the batter inside and tying up swings.

The Cubs feel Cabrera may be more ready than ever for another shot at the rotation, where the organization tried him in the minor leagues up until this year. With the right-hander starting to truly unlock his live arm, it’s a project worth keeping an eye on.

2012 Player Profile: Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol recovered his velocity and fastball/slider mix in his second-half rebound. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Innings Pitched: 55.1 (61 G, 0 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 3.90 RA, 6.5 H, 7.3 BB, 0.7 HR, 11.7 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.2
2013 Contract Status: Signed (through 2013)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (94), Slider (85)

We saw both the good and the bad with Carlos Marmol in 2012—so which version will we see next season? That’s a tough question to answer, but after a great second half, the Cubs closer looks like he’s piecing together some of his old form.

The 2012 season was a bit of a roller coaster for the (then) 29-year-old closer. Marmol struggled with his command early on, lost the closer’s job in May and suffered a thigh strain that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. By mid-June, he did step back into the ninth inning role, where he saved 18 of his last 19 opportunities and had a 2.09 ERA. Pitching coach Chris Bosio worked to simplify things for Marmol, including getting him to stop shaking off his catchers for one game in early July. The experiment was a success, and the right-hander said it was a lesson that would stick with him.

Getting their closer right is important to the Cubs, who hope to rebuild their bullpen from within as they divert most of their resources to starting pitching. Since Marmol became a full-time big leaguer in 2007, he’s picked up 115 of the team’s 231 saves, including 92 in the past three seasons as the primary closer. His 32.7 strikeout percentage ranks seventh among MLB relievers who have pitched at least 100 innings since 2007, and his .167 batting average against is baseball’s fourth-best mark. On the flip side, his 15.3 walk percentage ranks last and has been a persistent problem in recent years.

Let’s take a closer look with PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card).

Marmol fits in the category of two-pitch power relievers—the kind who trust the quality rather than quantity of their stuff. He throws a mid-90s four-seam fastball that has some run and a sweeping slider that, at its best, is one of the game’s true wipeout pitches. Early in his career, Marmol would throw his slider as much as his fastball early in the count, particularly against right-handed hitters. But he, via his catchers and coaches, has become a bit more conventional in his usage. This season, he threw a fastball in more than two-thirds of his first pitches before turning heavily to the slider when ahead in the count. His patterns versus right- and left-handed hitters are similar.

The nature of his slider has changed a bit in the last few seasons, as it’s lost some of its two-plane depth. In 2011, Marmol started throwing a smaller version of his slider—manager Dale Sveum said in February that he considered it a cutter—that somewhat blurred the large velocity and movement distinctions between his two pitches. That was scrapped this season. PITCHf/x movement data shows that the 2012 version of his slider ended up being more of a downward-biting pitch (particularly in relation to his fastball).

Marmol also threw his slider harder than ever before—reaching more than 85 mph on average by season’s end. But it’s important to note he was throwing his hardest overall since the beginning of 2010. This increase in velocity coincided with large improvements in all of his numbers, including hits, walks, strikeouts and runs allowed. That’s a good sign if Marmol can carry it into next season.

One thing we cannot evaluate with available PITCHf/x data is command—in other words, the ability to hit a particular spot (as opposed to just the strike zone in general). Of course, that’s always going to be a key to Marmol’s success, and anecdotally, many thought it improved later in the year.

Marmol is now entering the final season of a three-year contract extension that bought out his first year of free-agent eligibility. It’s important for him to prove he can build on his second-half recovery when he takes the mound in 2013.

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