With another scoreless inning this afternoon, Carlos Marmol extended his scoreless appearances streak to 6 games. During this span he's regained his form of previous seasons striking out 10 and walking just 3, while allowing just 5 base-runners in total. While everyone breathes a short sigh of relief to see the old Carlos back again, I'd like to investigate what the difference is between Marmol of late and the "erratic" Marmol we saw earlier in the season.
Before getting into it, I should preface this by saying while I've been a member of BCB I've probably been known best for two debates, which i've firmly entrenched myself on a side of. The first would be the pro-Felix Pie camp and the second would be the camp that was issuing warning signs about Marmol's usage. With regards to Marmol, I first raised concerns over this in a thread DGU posted last August (i believe), noting the abusive patterns in which Marmol was being used and the times a more diligent manager may have been able to avoid using Marmol. The second was a post earlier this year when things were actually going OK for the Cubs. I highlighted Marmol's alarming command issues and for the most part the poll I posted suggested there was nothing wrong and it was a short-term concern: A blip on the radar screen if you will.
Now as you'll have it there are arguments that can be made on both ends suggesting they were right. As often is the case with prognostication people can claim they weren't wrong, they were just "early". This is all fine and good the point of the site is to bring opinions to the table and talk about them in an educated and passionate fashion. I'm on board with all of this, I just happen to be more open to arguments I can see and understand. I have trouble seeing intangibles or some of the cliches others hold true about Marmol's confidence or his "comfort level" in his role, etc. As someone with a slight educational background in psychology, I'm not sure I understand how someone who has no interaction with the other human being is able to so plainly diagnose a mental issue like that. So, in general I lean towards numbers, because numbers can often give us insight into the problem and may offer a more reliable and less subjective way of assessing the problem. The numbers won't always tell the whole story, but they're usually a good entry point.
So this brings me to the point of this post: Why is Marmol's effectiveness so wildly different now?
Throughout the last year and a half much of my argument surrounding Marmol has revolved around his usage rates. My argument has largely been that the more frequently Marmol is used the less effective he is. This is contrary to popular belief and Lou's belief that Marmol needs to pitch more regularly to be effective.
To illustrate this point i've often showed these career numbers from Marmol:
Marmol's effectiveness on Days of Rest as Reliever:
Days Rest K/9 BB/9
0 Days Rest 12.4 6.6
1 Days Rest 11.0 5.2
2 Days Rest 12.7 5.7
3 Days Rest 12.3 3.9
4+ Days Rest 11.0 3.7
The chart shows that Marmol's ability to strike batters out is pretty consistent no matter the rest, but his command tends to falter the more frequently he's used (as evidenced by the declining BB/9 based on usage). It's a helpful entry point into the discussion, but I'm not sure it paints a full picture; so I wanted to investigate further.
Last year Marmol had command issues at times, but they've were restricted to shorter spurts. In 2008, Marmol was awful in June/July. But this year those problems were there from the start and rarely subsided. There were blips of his old self, but then the command issues would quickly come back.
So I wanted to put a theory to test. My idea was that based on the opinion Marmol was more effective when pitching more frequently, people were mis-interpreting Marmol's usage patterns.
My idea was fairly simple. In the midst of an abusive pattern Marmol exhibits the same characteristics of his old self, but towards the end of those abusive patterns the fatigue sets in and things start falling apart rapidly. This then leads to a sustained period of decline that can only be re-set by an extended period of rest.
To test this, I simply took all the times Marmol had pitched in what I deemed "absuive patterns". The samples that were included were:
- times Marmol pitched 4 days in a row
- times Marmol pitched 5 times in 7 days
- times Marmol pitched 6 times in 8 days
- times Marmol pitched 4 times in 5 days
- times Marmol pitched 7 times in 10 days
and I compared these with the results directly after Abuse Patterns (the week following an abuse pattern) along with the results of Marmol's effectiveness after what i deemed "Rest periods". Rest periods were graded as the following:
- times Marmol went 4 days without an appearance
- times Marmol had just 1 appearance in 6 days
So I put together a table of the results of the 11 data points i found for each sample:
There's a bit of overlap in some of the data, for example you can find a rest day that also is "post-abuse" and some of the post-rest days lead into abuse days because of the way Pineilla uses Marmol, but I thought this might be interesting.
It's actually not "as strong" a relationship as I was hoping/expecting to find. Post-abuse Marmol's K Rate declines, but so does his BB Rate and generally he's effective. But far and away the worst period for him is during these abuse patterns, as his BB Rate sky-rockets as do his WHIP and ERA. This disproves my idea that maybe the popular opinion that he was effective the more he pitched was due to Marmol pitching well through abuse patterns and then pitching poorly directly after. It turns out he does in fact pitch the worst while being asked to toe the mound the most often.
This is in line with the earlier link I posted (and have posted dozens of times on here) showing Marmol's career rates based on days rest. All of this seems to add up and suggest, Marmol's just a better pitcher the more time off he gets.
So how does this tie into what we're seeing now? Since Marmol's been moved to closer on August 18th, he's pitched far less than usual. He's pitched just 9 times in 23 days, an average of 2.7 appearances/week. Prior to August 18th his career average was 3.2 appearances/week. In addition as a closer he's pitched on back-to-back days just once and hasn't registered a single "abuse pattern" (as defined above).
This is why I think Marmol is getting back to the ways of old.