There's been a lot of discussion about the bullpen this year with some of the struggles we've had at the front-end of the pen and the constant roster turnover we've seen in those areas, but something I haven't seen discussed at length is the drastic loss of command from Carlos Marmol.
I believe this is the Elephant in the Room no one wants to discuss. Last year Marmol was a huge point of discussion with most of the talks focusing on Marmol's extreme usage patterns and the effects in Marmol's effectiveness after the break. Perhaps the best analysis done on this matter came from harbdall times writer Josh Kalk, in this article: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/anatomy-of-a-player-carlos-marmol/
The article was posted in early July just prior to the All Star Break and just prior to Marmol's most memorable meltdown last year on July 12th (Rich Harden's debut) in which he blew a 7-2 lead in the 9th allowing 5 Runs (1 ER) on 4 hits and 1 BB. The article focused mainly on the contention that Marmol was fatigued and the effects of overuse were readily available in the pitch F/X data. Fortunately for us, Marmol got some much needed rest during the all-star break and closed out the year exceptionally strong, posting a 35:10 K:BB Ratio in his final 29 innings
The question now is: are we paying the price this year for the effects of last year or is this simply a bout with command Carlos has had throughout his career?
Because no matter how we look at it, the numbers suggest Carlos' command has been worse this season than at any other point in his career. In order to create an assessment, let's take a look at his statistics and his pitch F/X data.
First, the stats:
Marmol's K/9 is in decline for the 3rd straight season from 12.5 down to 10.1, still elite but a pretty steep decline nonetheless. At the same time we see a significant increase in the BB/9 up to a career high 9.0 (heading into today's spectacular performance). This is a swift change in direction as Marmol had been steadily improving his command.
Now the Pitch F/X data:
Note, I'm not an expert with Pitch F/X data so please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong, but here are things I notice:
1. Marmol's Fastball velocity is down .5 mph after peaking last season at 94. Conversely, the average velocity of his offspeed pitches are each higher this year. Part of this may be the idea that Marmol is "overthrowing" and as such losing command on his breaking balls.
2. In terms of movement, Carlos is seeing more tail on his 4 seam fastball (a good thing), but losing significant amounts of movement in all of his off speed pitches. To me this suggests instead of being able to "break off" or "snap off" his offspeed stuff, the pitches are hanging a bit more.
3. This is on another FanGraphs page, but Marmol's Contact rates are also up, meaning he's missing less bats.
So here's what we know:
- Marmol's command has been significantly worse this season
- He's lost movement on his breaking pitches, but generally velocity has been fine
- Marmol's been far more hittable this year getting less swings and misses, which has led to an increase in his H/9 and a decerease in his K/9
- since the beginning of 2008 no reliever in baseball has appeared in more games than Carlos Marmol
I've been of the opinion Marmol's been overused for some time and a lack of any semblance of confidence in any other players in the pen has lead to an abuse of one the organization's most prized possessions. With that said, I'm certainly open to other viewpoints or explanations. The one thing we know for sure is we need more outings like the one we got today from Carlos.
So what does everyone think?