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.

Jay Bruce: “This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 25:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds swings and watches the flight of his ball as he hits a two-run homer against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fourth inning at AT&T Park on July 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Outfielder Jay Bruce was the catalyst in the Reds’ 7-5 victory over the Giants on Monday night, drilling a pair of two-run home runs. It’s good timing for the Reds, as the trade deadline is six days away. The Reds might prefer to get a prospect or two for Bruce rather than pick up his $13 million club option for 2017 or buy him out for $1 million and let him walk into free agency.

It was only a year ago that it seemed like the Reds would have to settle for next-to-nothing to get rid of Bruce. He posted career-lows across the board in 2014, including a .654 OPS and 18 home runs. He improved last season, returning to 26 home runs, but came with an uninspiring .729 OPS.

This year is another story. Bruce is currently hitting .272/.326/.564 with 23 home runs and a league-best 77 RBI. He’s on pace to set career-bests in a lot of categories if he’s able to stay healthy.

Bruce was honest about his resurgence, though, admitting that he doesn’t know why he’s so much better this year as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving. You’re never settled. You’ve never got it. You’ve never figured it out. It’s like a puzzle that never has all the pieces to it. You might get close and feel pretty good about your progress, but you never are going to have the puzzle put together.

Bruce, who welcomed a child into the world back in April, also discussed the difficulties of hearing his name bandied about in trade rumors once again.

It’s harder this year. I have a family I have to focus on now. Logistically, it’s much more intricate. I know the skit. I know how it goes. But it will be nice when it’s passed because we’ll have a plan of attack on whether my family is staying where they are in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

This is a point of view that is not often covered. This time of the year can be very difficult for players who may be traded, as they await a phone call that could send their lives into upheaval. It may mean being away from their families for three months. It means living out of a hotel room or finding a place to live on very short notice. Even Bruce’s comments about his success this year are illuminating about the mental strain of the game.

As usual, great reporting by Buchanan. His full article is worth your time.

Chris Sale doesn’t regret protesting wearing White Sox retro uniform

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox reacts during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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White Sox ace Chris Sale was scratched from Saturday night’s start against the Tigers due to a confrontation he had with White Sox coaches and front office staff over the 1976 retro uniforms the club was to wear. Sale used a knife to cut up his uniform as well as the uniforms of some other players, protesting the club’s decision to wear them. The White Sox suspended Sale five games “for violating team rules, for insubordination, and for destroying team equipment.”

Sale spoke about the incident for the first time, as MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports. The lefty apologized to fans who came to see him pitch and said he regrets “not being there for my guys,” referring to the bullpen, which had to cover for Sale on Saturday. Matt Albers got the spot start and went two innings.

Sale felt the uniform would have impacted his performance, saying, “[The ’76 uniforms] are uncomfortable and unorthodox. I didn’t want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn’t want anything to alter my mechanics. … There’s a lot of different things that went into it. Looking bad had absolutely zero to do with it. Nothing.”

Sale was firm that he doesn’t regret standing up for he believes in. “Absolutely not,” he said. He continued, “Do I regret saying business should not be first before winning? Absolutely not.”

With his five-game suspension to end after Wednesday’s game, Sale is on track to start Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.