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.

Padres sign Jordan Lyles

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The Padres announced on Sunday that the club signed pitcher Jordan Lyles to a one-year major league contract with a club option for 2019. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Lyles will earn $750,000 in 2018. Pitcher Travis Wood was designated for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for Lyles.

Lyles, 27, had miserable results between the Rockies and Padres last season, compiling an aggregate 7.75 ERA with a 55/22 K/BB ratio over 69 2/3 innings. While he specifically gave up 24 earned runs in 23 innings across five starts with the Padres, it was a small sample. A full season at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, as opposed to Colorado’s Coors Field, might help revitalize his career.

Wood, 30, went to the Padres at the non-waiver trade deadline from the Royals this past season. Overall, the lefty posted an aggregate 6.80 ERA with a 65/45 K/BB ratio in 94 innings. He’ll earn $6.5 million this season and has an $8 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout for 2019. So, the Padres are just eating $7.5 million minus the league minimum, assuming Wood latches on elsewhere.