The Cubs’ Opening Day win against the Pirates reinforced what we already knew about the Cubs from last year, good and bad. Here are a few of my points from Monday’s game:
1.) If you put any stock into one Jeff Samardzija performance, he is picking up right where he left off. Samardzija threw 8.0 innings of two-hit/one-walk baseball Monday, throwing 110 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. In my opinion, his most important stat is that he got 13 groundouts and 0 flyouts. If Samardzija gets good defense from his infield this year, this ratio will lead to another successful year.
2.) Anthony Rizzo crushed a three-run homerun to right-center in his first at-bat Monday, providing two of the Cubs’ three runs. In my preview for Rizzo this year, I projected Rizzo having a great year and many believe he will have a breakout year. Hopefully Rizzo heats up as the weather does this season. Defensively, Rizzo also made a great play in the seventh.
3.) Also picking up right where he left off, unfortunately, was Carlos Marmol. Marmol threw 19 pitches, with 9 of them being strikes. He threw 8 pitches to Garret Jones before earning a swinging strikeout on a slider in the dirt. Then, Marmol hit Andrew McCutchen with the second pitch of the at bat. After Marmol allowed a single to Pedro Alvarez, Chris Bosio visited the mound and whatever Bosio had to say must not have worked, because Marmol then walked Gaby Sanchez on five pitches.
If any teams were thinking about trading for Marmol, it would have happened by now. Today’s performance just reinforces what people have been saying about Marmol and the fact that he cannot be trusted to get the last three outs of a game. I would hope the Cubs decide to give Marmol’s job to Kyuji Fujikawa who came into the game and got Russell Martin out with two pitches. If you’re keeping track at home, Fujikawa got as many outs as Marmol with only one-tenth of the pitches. Dale Sveum says he is sticking with Marmol for now. As Cub fans watch Marmol continually walk batter after batter this year, they need to remind themselves that he has the fourth highest salary on the team. As executive watch Marmol this year, they need to remind themselves, “This is why you don’t pay closers a lot of money.”
After last November’s botched Carlos Marmol-Dan Haren trade, I thought the Cubs had blown their only opportunity to trade the wild-throwing closer. Then, last week, I read that the Cubs had informed Marmol’s agent to expect a trade. I couldn’t believe how much he had declined since the 2010 season in which he boasted a WHIP of 1.18 and a strikeout percentage of 41.6. After looking at the numbers, I could see a trend in the past three seasons.
Marmol is not getting the swinging strikes he used to get earlier in his career. More specifically, he isn’t getting first-pitch strikes (F-Strike%) and swinging strikes at pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing%). Looking at his 2012 F-Strike% of 47.8, Marmol is pitching behind in the count to more than half of the batters he faced, unlike in 2010 where he was ahead of nearly two-thirds of the batters he faced. A declining O-Swing% tells me that his slider is not as effective as it was in 2010, when batters were swinging at more than a quarter of his pitches that were outside of the strike zone.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, if this amateur can look at some numbers and graphs and determine this trend, a well-paid team sabermetrician can definitely see this. In the end, the Cubs will never get the value for Marmol that he once had, as recently as 2010. But, I will never forget the amount of movement Marmol’s slider had in 2010, and I’m sure I’m not alone.