Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/20/08

Roster Spot 11- P- Carlos Marmol #49
Ht:6'2'' Wt: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right

The last thing you see before you head back to the dugout..

Cubs fans came to the consensus last year that Carlos Marmol is The Balls. After bouncing back and forth between starting and relief as a rookie in 2006, to the tune of a 5-7 record, a 6.08 ERA, and an ugly 1.688 WHIP, Marmol was called up in early May of 2007 after an injury to Ryan Dempster and locked his place in the Cubs bullpen with scoreless innings in his first ten games. Marmol spent the rest of the season combining his high 90s fastball with his nasty slider to wind up as the Cubs #1 setup guy, making 59 appearances totalling 69.3 innings, and and going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA and a dominant 1.096 WHIP. Marmol also struck out 96 batters vs only 35 walks in those appearances, for a ridiculous 12.46 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio.

This spring Carlos was one of the three candidates for the Cubs closer job with Kerry Wood and Bob Howry. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has all but stated that Kerry has the job. Some fans disagree with this move, citing Wood's frequent injuries and Marmol's skill set. I don't want to sound like Dusty Baker, but really there's no reason not to make Kerry the closer. He's got experience, especially in the playoffs where he's 2-2 with a 3.79 ERA and once singlehandedly pitched the Cubs past the Atlanta Braves in 2003, and besides, declaring Kerry the closer has no effect on Marmol's availability. If Wood is the closer and Marmol is his badass set-up man, Carlos is there to take the job if Wood struggles or gets hurt, but you might as well give the veteran who has given the Cubs almost a decade of service through injury after injury a chance.

Having Marmol in the bullpen in any role is one of the Cubs greatest weapons this year. As I mentioned back in October, almost every team that makes a pennant run the last few years seems to have at least one young phenom in the bullpen. The '02 Angels had a young K-Rod, the '05 White Sox had Bobby Jenks, the 2006 Cardinals had Adam Wainwright and their opponent in the World Series the Tigers had Joel Zumaya, and last year's Red Sox had Jonathan Papelbon. The Cubs have Marmol, and hopefully he'll be a key part of seizing the pennant this year.