Results tagged ‘ Carlos Marmol ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The first two weeks of the season were a struggle for the Cubs relief corps. Despite strong efforts from one of the NL’s best rotations in the club’s first 12 games, the bullpen blew four save opportunities, compiled a 5.82 ERA and repeatedly failed to secure victories in winnable games.
But the ‘pen’s performance in the last two weeks is making those early-season woes look like a thing of the past. In the last 13 games, the relievers have compiled a 1.85 ERA, third in the NL during that stretch. Though they still walk too many hitters (9.5 walk percentage, second highest in NL since April 16), the bullpen has found a way to get out of jams, leaving an NL-best 92.4 percent of runners on base.
The Cubs have been in every game this season—all but three have been decided by three runs or fewer and none by more than four—which means a strong bullpen is often the difference between winning and losing. What the team looks to have gained in recent weeks is a “give me the-ball” type finisher. Though manager Dale Sveum has not named a closer and prefers a bullpen-by-committee approach, the North Siders acquired veteran late-innings reliever Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers at the end of Spring Training. Since making his debut on April 19, Gregg has been lights out, surrendering no earned runs in his first six appearances and racking up four saves.
Despite Opening Day closer Carlos Marmol’s early failures, surrendering five earned runs in his first 1.2 innings pitched, he hasn’t given up a run since April 6. He has still walked eight batters in those nine innings, but he’s managed to miss a lot of bats in that time too, striking out nine.
The most consistent relief pitcher all season has been southpaw James Russell. The 26-year-old has leaned heavily on his 80 mph slider, throwing it 45 percent of the time, while mixing in a fastball and change-up. So far this season, his strikeout totals have improved dramatically. He’s now fanning 10.6 batters per nine, three K/9 better than last season. In 11 innings, he’s walked just one batter and hasn’t given up an earned run. He’s been so effective that his 0.6 wins above replacement (according to fangraphs.com) is tied for the best among relief pitchers in baseball.
To round things out, Shawn Camp looks like he might have rediscovered his 2012 form after struggling early, and waiver pickup Kameron Loe has been reliable in his five innings since being claimed off waivers from Seattle. Though the relievers’ .269 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) might indicate they’re pitching a little above their ability (an average BABIP is around .300), a solid effort from these pitchers all season long could make a big difference in 2013.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Other Pitching Profiles:
Signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1999, Carlos Marmol made his major league debut as a starter in 2006. But the Dominican native returned as a relief pitcher in 2007 and turned heads when, filling in for the injured Ryan Dempster, he closed out the ninth inning with a scoreless frame for his first major league save.
Since 2007, Marmol has been the Cubs’ primary closer, and he’s led the relief staff in strikeouts each year. Though the 30-year-old’s two-pitch arm boasts impressive power, he often struggles with command. He’s recorded more walks in his career than he’s allowed hits.
After giving up runs in his first three appearances of 2013, manager Dale Sveum pulled Marmol from the closing role. But since the change, Marmol has delivered four straight scoreless appearances. If that performance continues, Sveum may consider renaming the righty to the closing spot, especially with Fujikawa on the DL.
Marmol is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line’s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): 4-seam (95), Slider (85)
2012 Stats: 55 IP, 29.2 K%, 18.2 UBB%, 3.42 ERA, 115 ERA+, 1.54 WHIP
Last Season: Up and Down. Marmol had a rollercoaster year, finishing stronger than he started. He struggled with command early on, lost the closer job in May and missed a few weeks with a thigh strain. By mid-June, he stepped back into the ninth-inning role, where he saved 18 of his last 19 opportunities and posted a 2.09 ERA. Pitching coach Chris Bosio worked to simplify things for Marmol, getting him to stop shaking off his catchers.
Plan of Attack: Keep it simple with pure stuff. Marmol is a classic two-pitch power reliever—trusting quality of stuff rather than depth. He throws a mid-90s fastball with run and a slider that, at its best, is one of the game’s true wipeout pitches. Marmol used to throw his slider as much as his fastball early in the count, particularly against righties, but his usage has grown more conventional of late. In 2012, he threw a first-pitch fastball more than two-thirds of the time before turning to the slider when ahead. Of course, command is Marmol’s biggest weakness and overcoming problems there is vital to his success.
Putaway Pitch: Slider. The nature of Marmol’s slider has changed a bit from the sweeping slurve it once was. In 2011, Marmol started throwing a smaller version—manager Dale Sveum called it a cutter—that blurred the large velocity/movement differences between his two pitches. That was scrapped in 2012, and his slider became more of a downward-biting pitch. Marmol also threw his slider harder than ever before—reaching an average of 85 mph by season’s end. But he also was throwing his hardest overall since early 2010. That increase in velocity coincided with improvements in all of his numbers—a good sign if Marmol can carry it forward.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the bullpen. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
After a brutal start to the season and a demotion from the closer’s role, Carlos Marmol seemed to be back near peak form by the end of 2012. In 29.2 innings after the All-Star break, Marmol converted 12 of 13 saves, posted a 1.52 ERA and struck out 39 batters. However, there is speculation he may be traded before the season starts, which would open the door for new Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, to assume closing duties. The Japanese import, who has closed in Japan, has a variety of pitches but relies mostly on his low-90s fastball and splitter.
Besides Marmol and Fujikawa, James Russell and Shawn Camp are the only bullpen arms who had strong 2012 seasons. However, relievers are the most inconsistent commodities in baseball, and one can never assume that previous success guarantees the same in the future.
There are several names that could step up in the bullpen. Arodys Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves last season, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Though the Cubs hope he can be a starter in the long run, he could also help as a reliever this season. Jaye Chapman, who showed his change-up could be a devastating out pitch, was impressive in limited duty toward the end of 2012. Players like Alberto Cabrera, Tony Zych (a 2011 draft pick who drew positive reviews in the Arizona Fall League) and former top prospect Trey McNutt could each surprise and end up as important cogs in the late innings.
Plus, with the Cubs’ surplus of starters, pitchers like Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva or Travis Wood could end up spending significant time in the ’pen.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
For the January issue of Vine Line, we talked to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein about the state of the organization. In part one of the interview, Epstein talked about his first year with the team and instituting the Cubs Way throughout the system. In part two, we cover the need for veteran leadership and the Cubs’ desire to add pitching at all levels. We’ll post part three on the blog next week. To read the entire interview, pick up the January issue or subscribe to Vine Line today.
Vine Line: What’s your philosophy on the ideal mix of star players and role players on a team?
Theo Epstein: There are two ways to really improve your team in a hurry from one year to the next. One is sign impact players or bring in impact players from outside the organization. The other is to have a wave of young talent that’s approaching their prime years at the same time. Those teams that have a bunch of players going from 23 and 24 years old, when they’re first breaking into the big leagues, to 26 and 27, 27 being the start of a player’s prime in baseball, those teams get better in a hurry.
At some point in the future, if we have a bunch of those players who are entering their prime and improving together and we supplement that with some impact signings from outside the organization, we could really see a lot of improvement in a hurry.
VL: After losing so many veterans at the trade deadline last season, who will fill the leadership void this year?
TE: We felt like we did get in a position where we traded some solid veteran leaders last year, but we also had some remaining. Alfonso Soriano doesn’t get a lot of credit for it, but he sets a tremendous example with his work ethic and his preparation. David DeJesus, as an example, is another great leader. He took Anthony Rizzo under his wing and gave him his daily workout routine and pregame prep. The two of them started working out together and getting ready for games together. That gave Anthony the confidence that he was going to be ready every game. Now he relies on that routine as part of his own mental preparation to be able to play at a high level.
So I do think we have some veterans remaining, but that’s certainly something we take into consideration as we put the team together. We don’t want to have a team that’s young and without the proper kind of veteran guidance in the clubhouse to help them adjust and become true pros and good teammates.
VL: It seems like the system is in a much better position in the infield and outfield, but is still lacking the pitching to compete consistently.
TE: To be blunt, I think you’re right. We simply don’t have enough talent yet. We have some really interesting arms down low—we have some guys who are going to be big leaguers—but we really need to focus on acquiring impact young pitching. No matter what we do with our position player corps, we’re not going to go anywhere unless we have the arms to match. So we made it a priority in just about every deal we made to get at least one arm back. After we took Albert Almora in the draft with our first pick, I think we took eight consecutive pitchers. And we’re going to continue to hammer away at acquiring young pitching. You have to do a lot of it through volume because of the amount of attrition involved in young pitching.
VL: What about the bullpen? James Russell really grabbed that Sean Marshall spot, and Carlos Marmol not only got his old stuff back but seems to have found his fastball. Were you happy with what you saw?
TE: Overall, I wasn’t happy with the bullpen. It was disappointing as a whole, but there certainly were some bright spots. I think James Russell did a very admirable job continuing the progress he made toward the end of 2011, and really pitched even better when he was used deeper in the games, in more meaningful spots. He got left- and right-handed hitters out and showed a very consistent pitch mix, showed tremendous poise, and was a very reliable executor of pitches, even on the big stage. That was a big step forward for him. We see him as a guy who’s going to be in the ’pen for a long time.
And then Marmol did turn his season around. He got off to a really difficult start. I know it’s hard to look past that, but he worked really hard at following [pitching coach] Chris Bosio’s request to throw his fastball more, and all of a sudden his velocity crept up. He got some of that swing-and-miss quality back to his slider. And for the last three or four months of the season, he was a pretty good relief pitcher for us and closed games fairly consistently when we did give him that opportunity. So there were bright spots. … We just need to be more consistent from day one next year.
The Chicago Cubs introduced Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa Friday morning after signing the righty to a two-year deal worth $9.5 million with vesting options for a third year.
“It’s always nice when a player really wants to be a Cub,” said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. “I think he made that very clear, and we’re very happy to have him. He had a wonderful career in Hanshin for the Tigers, and we hope he has a long and wonderful career here with the Cubs.”
Fujikawa, 32, joins the Cubs after pitching all or part of 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League. The right-hander went 42-25 with 220 saves and a 1.77 ERA (136 ER/692.1 IP) covering 562 appearances—all but 14 as a relief pitcher. Fujikawa twice led the league in holds (46 in 2005 and 30 in 2006), twice led the league in saves (46 in 2007 and 41 in 2011), and posted a 1.32 ERA or lower in four of the last five seasons. He won the Central League Most Valuable Set-up Pitcher Award in 2005.
“I know that the team is very young,” said Fujikawa through a translator. “I am a veteran. I will try to led the young players, as well, and try to compete to win for the Cubs. I know what they’ve done last year, and hopefully we can do better next year. I’d like to be part of the building process for the Cubs future.”
Fujikawa made his professional debut in 2000 and saw his first run of success in 2005, when he posted a 1.36 ERA in a league-leading 80 appearances. Two seasons later, the Tigers moved him to the full-time closer role. Last year, Fujikawa went 2-2 with a 1.32 ERA and 24 saves in 47.2 innings.
He was a member of Team Japan in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics and also pitched in the 2008 Olympics, but according to Hoyer, Fujikawa will not pitch in the WBC this year.
The Japanese star features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and complements it with a forkball and a slow curve.
“He’s been known in Japan as a guy who can really pitch with his fastball, which is really important. He’s not a guy who tricks you. He actually comes right after guys,” Hoyer said. “Guys who rely too much on trickery can often be guys the league figures out quickly. And our hope certainly is that because he pitches with his fastball, he’ll be able to pitch to a game plan and be able to establish himself and have a nice run.”
Although Fujikawa ended his Japanese career as a closer, he said he’s happy to pitch in whatever role the team asks of him. Both Hoyer and baseball president Theo Epstein stressed that Carlos Marmol will likely start the season as closer after pitching well in the second half of 2012.
“Our goal is to have the best bullpen possible, and you don’t have a good bullpen by having one good pitcher throwing the ninth inning,” Hoyer said. “[Marmol] goes into the season as the closer. Our goal is to have a seven-man-deep bullpen of good arms, and Kyuji certainly adds to that.”
Former Cubs reliever and MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (center) joined Brian Kenny and Tom Verducci for on-site reporting from the Winter Meetings.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Here are more Dale Sveum dispatches from the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the halls have been buzzing on this last full day of the Winter Meetings.
• Sveum made it clear the bullpen is getting attention in the Cubs front office. The team already re-signed Shawn Camp, their lone free agent, and may look to add more.
“Upgrading the ‘pen is something we wanted to do. … Whatever happens from here on out—we’re talking to a lot of people, and hopefully things work out. But [Carlos] Marmol is our closer, and we’ve got to get better at the back end. We signed Shawn Camp back, James Russell, so that’s a start. But we have to get better in that seventh, eighth inning.”
Sveum wouldn’t directly comment on Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, though the Cubs’ pursuit of the reliever attracted plenty of Japanese reporters to the manager’s press conference. Fujikawa, a free agent who saved 220 games over 12 years with the Hanshin Tigers, clearly intrigues Sveum.
“I think he can fill any kind of role. He’s got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn’t come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. He’s got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out—so he can pitch in any kind of situation.”
• Sveum spent about a week in Arizona to see Cubs prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Javier Baez, who just turned 20 last week. Many have compared Baez’s bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.
“Incredible bad speed. Didn’t get to see any results, but the bat speed was pretty good. I didn’t go to his best games. But he had a heck of a minor league season—the combination of the home runs and everything. He was a bigger kid than I thought when I saw him in person. I saw him without a shirt on one day, and I was like, wow, he’s a pretty big kid. But a lot of tremendous, tremendous tools at that age. That kind of bat speed just doesn’t come around at 19 years old.”
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.
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.
Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.
The Cubs take a trip down the Dan Ryan Expressway this week en route to U.S. Cellular Field for the second leg of the BP Crosstown Cup. To add some fuel to Chicago rivalry, we’re breaking down the position-by-position matchups for both teams, starting today with starters and bullpens.
Matt Garza (2-5, 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) vs. Zach Stewart (1-1, 5.18 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 5.55 K/9)
The Cubs will have an opportunity to jump out to an early lead in the series with the Sox’s Zach Stewart making his first start of the season. Last year, Stewart completed seven innings just once in eight starts after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a July trade.
But this may not be a sure thing. For a starter many believed was the Cubs’ ace going into Opening Day, Matt Garza has struggled a bit, especially of late. In his first six outings, Garza had a 2.59 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and was striking out 9.19 batters per nine innings. In his last six outings, those numbers have worsened dramatically (5.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.55 K/9). With Adam Dunn and Alex Rios bouncing back, Paul Konerko likely having the best season of his career and many others hitting better than expected, Garza will have to pitch well to outlast the tough White Sox lineup.
Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) vs. Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.83 K/9)
Travis Wood has been a consistent and solid addition to the Cubs’ rotation since joining the major league club in early May. The southpaw has completed five innings in all six of his starts and has gotten through the sixth in three of them. He’s only had one bad outing (5 IP, 6 ER, 7 H vs. the Padres, a game the Cubs still won) and has surrendered no more than three earned runs in five of six starts.
The Sox have been successful this season in part due to Jake Peavy’s return to dominance. After starting just 35 games over the last two seasons for the South Siders, Peavy entered camp healthy this year, and his numbers show he is back to his old, dominant form. One number that might be helping his cause is a .239 batting average on balls in play. Given the league average hovers somewhere around .300 and the Sox have a good-but-not-great defense, there might be some luck involved to his fast start.
Ryan Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) vs. Gavin Floyd (4-7, 5.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.5 K/9)
Gavin Floyd has struggled of late to say the least. In his last six starts, he is 1-4 with a 10.71 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP. However, Floyd is still managing to strike out just better than one batter per inning.
Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, has been one of the National League’s most consistently dominant starters all season. Because of poor run support, the 35-year-old won his first start just three outings ago. Prior to his first win on June 5, the Cubs were averaging 2.89 runs per game in Dempster’s starts. But he has won each of his last three because the bats have finally livened up behind him.
While neither bullpen has been automatic this year, the Sox’s ‘pen has fared significantly better than that of the Cubs. Closer Addison Reed has converted eight of nine chances this season, while Matt Thornton (3.38 ERA) and Jesse Crain (2.18 ERA, 10.9 K/9) have been solid setup men.
The Cubs have a 4.51 bullpen ERA, second-worst in baseball, and have saved just nine games total, the lowest total in baseball. James Russell (2.56 ERA) and Shawn Camp (3.74 ERA) have both been good middle/late-innings relievers, but the closer spot is still a revolving door. It appears Carlos Marmol has regained that job after returning from a recent demotion.
Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll feature the infielders.
MESA, Ariz.–It was like a heavyweight fight: two evenly matched competitors slugging away at each other. But when the final round of Monday’s bunting competition was over, only new manager Dale Sveum was left standing.
In a back-and-forth battle between Sveum and right-hander Kerry Wood, Sveum advanced through the first round only after Wood’s final bunt edged into the 20-point box, instead of the 40-point box Wood needed for the victory.
“I got lucky by the way the grass was growing to the east,” Sveum said. “The ball kind of fell off the white line. I thought I was done, and I was going to shake his hand, and the ball just trickled off the white line at the end.”
This spring, Sveum created a NCAA tourney-style bracket, pitting 62 Cubs players and two coaches against each other in a bunting competition. Chalk lines have been drawn on one of the infields at Fitch Park, and different point totals are awarded depending on where the ball lands. Each competitor gets 24 pitches over three rounds and is required to bunt 12 to the first base side and 12 to the third base side.
This was the final first-round draw, with the exception of the matchup between Paul Maholm and Rodrigo Lopez. Their contest has been postponed while Maholm recovers from the flu. Carlos Marmol, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto, David Dejesus and Jeff Baker also advanced on Monday.
“It’s a fun thing, but also a lot of people really want to get better and care about it,” Sveum said. “Sacrifice bunting is something that’s very important to the game, and it’s kind of been lost a little over the years.
“You get a feeling of guys who are bearing down and competing, and some guys who aren’t competing as well. You get to know somebody a little bit through this tournament.”