Carlos Marmol, poor control, and unhittable relievers

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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.

Madison Bumgarner diagnosed with fractured left hand

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Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner sustained a displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal of his left hand on Friday. He’ll undergo surgery on Saturday to insert pins in his pinky knuckle, a procedure that could require a four- to six-week recovery period before he’s cleared to throw again. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Bumgarner’s total recovery time is expected to take 6-8 weeks. In a best-case scenario, the lefty said he should be able to pitch again before the All-Star break, but given the amount of time and care it’ll take for him to shoulder a full workload, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to do so.

Bumgarner suffered the fracture during the third inning of Friday’s Cactus League game against the Royals. Whit Merrifield returned a line drive up the middle and the ball deflected off the top of Bumgarner’s pitching hand before bouncing into the infield. He chased after the ball but was unable to pick it up, and was immediately visited by manager Bruce Bochy and a team trainer before exiting the game.

The 28-year-old southpaw was gearing up for a massive comeback after losing significant playing time with an injury in 2017. During his tumultuous run with the Giants last year, he missed nearly three months on the disabled list after spraining his shoulder and bruising his ribs in a dirt bike accident. He finished the season with a 4-9 record in 17 starts and a 3.32 ERA (his first 3.00+ ERA since 2012), 1.6 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 111 innings. Without him, the Giants suffered as well; by season’s end, their pitching staff ranked seventh-worst in the National League with a cumulative 4.58 ERA and 10.1 fWAR.

This is the second massive injury the Giants’ rotation has sustained this week after right-hander Jeff Samardzija was diagnosed with a strained pectoral muscle on Thursday. “Horrible news for us,” Bochy told reporters after Friday’s game. “That’s all you can say about it. There’s nothing you can do but push on.”