Carlos Marmol and are the Cubs really that dumb?
October 14th, 2009 by czar

Carlos Marmol can’t find home plate.  That’s his problem.

His BB/9 rate from July on was around 6 which isn’t really good; but far better than the 9 or so he was putting up before (his HBP not included, and he did have a fair amount of those in the first half as well).

Even with the BB (which were a spike this year from 4.5 and 4.2 in 2007 and 2008, respectively) he strikes out so many batters that his last three years of FIP (including this one) are 2.72, 3.62, and 4.06 and really that 4.06 is skewed by the first half (it was sub 3.50 post ASB).

He’s not a lights-out option at closer, but since his K/9 partially offsets the BB/9 (ex., see Francisco Rodriguez– considered an “elite” closer with a BB/9 north of 4.5 since he became a 9th inning guy); he’s (at worst) a league average closer with a couple years of arb left; something the Cubs are probably pretty content with at the back end of the bullpen. I could see numerous other teams ahead of them in a hypothetical race for Papelbon.

Folks complained about Papelbon’s walk rate this year. It was 3.2 / 9, while Marmol’s was 7.9! Marmol also hit 12 batters in 74 IP, so he was essentially allowing over 1 baserunner an inning via either walk or HBP (Bard’s BB rate was 4 / 9).

Marmol can offset that by having a very high K/9 rate (11.3). I also pointed out that his BB/9 was around 6 after the ASB (he supposedly fixed some mechanical issues according to the local media scuttlebutt) which is far from fantastic, but a step closer to his career average out of the pen (which was around 4 coming into this season). The 8-9 figures you and xjack are tossing out are primarily due to the fact that he walked a bunch of guys in April, May, and early June before improving; but since he’s working with a sample size of 74 IP (or about 7 xx/9), it’s going to be impossible to bring those numbers back out of whack.

In 2007 and 2008 he was one of the 10 best relievers in the NL by RARP. In 2009 he walked a ton of guys and STILL projected to be, at worst, a league average closer. Whether or not Lou Pinella chose Kevin Gregg to be his closer at the beginning of the season (a move that was decried by fans and journalists alike out here in the Chicago/Illinois markets, FWIW) is irrelevant.

It’s unlikely the Cubs would start tossing big names the Sox way to upgrade from a guy under control for two more years, whose floor is probably a league average closer when they have many more pressing needs (the fact that they were one of the 10 worst hitting teams in baseball with a $134 million payroll) to worry about.

If we were talking about the Mariners or Reds taking a chance on Marmol, I’d say fine. But we’re talking about the Cubs. A major market team with some serious ghosts. Think Red Sox going into 2004. There’s a reason why the Sox splurged on Keith Foulke rather than take a chance on a guy like Marmol.

I am not claiming Marmol is equally as good as Papelbon or even in the same tier. The Cubs had the 4th best FIP in MLB this year; they were one of the 10 worst offenses in baseball. Why on Earth would they be fixated on giving up talent and value, especially guys with good offensive rates (Lee? Ramirez? Seriously??), for a bump in RP production when Marmol is FAR from the reason they sucked this year?

And for the record, Marmol walked just as many guys in August (10) and in September (9) as he did in April (9).

I’ve pretty much argued that dissecting a RP’s season based on pure statistics (without additional knowledge of things like mechanics, velocity, etc.) is sometimes an effort in futility because of SSS concerns. This is one of them.

August/Sept – 19 BB, 24 IP – 7 BB/9
April – 9 BB, 9 IP – 9 BB/9

Again, this underscores the foolishness of saying things like “he walked the same # of guys in months X, Y, and Z.” A BB or two and a couple extra IP changes the whole dynamic of the stats. In fact, the only reason I bothered to segregate his season earlier is because I have “inside” knowledge (not “inside” like I’m privy, “inside” meaning we know something else other than just black and white statistics) that he tweaked his mechanics around the ASB; so a degree of the variability in his BB/9 over the course of a season may not be merely noise, but have underlying cause. Otherwise, trying to glean small trends from month by month rates of relievers is futile.

You wrote, “The 8-9 figures are primarily due to the fact that he walked a bunch of guys in April, May, and early June before improving.”  If you don’t think his monthly walk numbers are relevant, then don’t raise the issue in the first place.

Did you not read the previous responses?  First (just so we’re clear) the 8-9 figures were BB/9, not total BB which were obviously skewed by IP later in the season. In a vacuum it’s very tough to separate out monthly trend in RP peripherals because the SS is so small (e.g., a few bad calls here and there and suddenly your WHIP for June balloons 20%). However, here in Illinois they were discussing (and this was probably about 6-8 weeks before Marmol took over closing duties) how he had tweaked his mechanics so they were more repeatable. The pitching coach said he looked like the “2007″ or “2008 Marmol,” whatever that meant (I assumed it meant he sucked less, but it could have had something to do with his stuff, mechanics, arm slot, whatever). For that reason, it’s more reasonable to use his before/after splits because there’s a much better chance that any trend might actually have an underlying cause other than random variability.

We’re talking about the Cubs here. They thought signing Milton Bradley to play center was a good idea. They traded Mark DeRosa for a trio of mediocre pitching prospects. And you don’t think there’s a chance they’d trade Ramirez or Lee for Papelbon? They probably think Jake Fox is an adequate replacement for A-Ram.

Listen, we can talk “man, the Cubbies are so stupid” until the cows come home, and I have listened to plenty of callers on 670 pissing and moaning about every little thing Hendry does. That said, if anyone with half a brain has a say in the bankruptcy-pending franchise; they will be like “whoa, why would we trade a 4-6 WAR middle-of-the-lineup hitter for a more-expensive RP who (at most) represents a 1 or 2 win upgrade?” That’s, again, not even considering the fact that the Cubs sucked this year because they couldn’t score runs, not because they were taking leads into the 9th inning and blowing them left and right. They might be willing to send prospects or a pitcher back, but it’s unlikely they’ll be willing to make a move that bowls the Sox FO over.

Papelbon, even during his most dominant season, was never worth more than 3.2 WAR. Even still, I’m a little suspicious of Derrek Lee’s 2009 season. He turned 34 in September and had by far his best campaign since 2005, when posted a magnificent 7.4 WAR and was one of the best players in MLB. So while his .393 OBP, .579 SLG and .412 wOBA are no doubt impressive, I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar Lee is a 3-4 WAR player going forward and not 5-6.

I was also including Aramis Ramirez (a name also tossed out) who has had a WAR over 4 every season he’d be with the Cubs until this year’s injury-riddled one, and even then, if you extrapolate it out to 162 games, he comes in around 5. And I agree with you on Lee (and was surprised at his 2009 number, especially after his April/May), although even if you want to project 3-4; giving him up for the incremental upgrade from Marmol to Papelbon would cause me to wonder if Hendry should be committed.

Posted in Message Board Ramblings


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  • Traversing the land that is known as Red Sox Nation, The Czar Who Wears Red Sox is an attempt at compiling a repertoire of my ever-so-sexy forum posts (when I'm too lazy to write my own damn entry) and other random baseball thoughts that strike. For those whose posts serve as the inspiration of my epiphanies and rants, do not be angry, but merely, be honored that you have achieved such status. Names will never be revealed. Feedback appreciated, as this is a work in progress.

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