The Miami Marlins have signed free agent reliever Carlos Marmol to be their latest bullpen reclamation project. The club has rehabbed a variety of relievers in the past, but Marmol is a special breed coming into the 2014 season under a one-year, $1.25 million contract. The reputation on Marmol is that he appears to be irrevocably broken, mostly because he was a flawed pitcher to begin with a clearly apparent weakness. Marmol's distinct lack of control over the course of his career was always a known problem, so when his ERA and FIP started climbing and he was giving up home run alongside those walks, it was easy to label him a lost cause quickly.
The truth is that Marmol was probably never truly "good" after 2010, despite the save numbers. But the Marlins do not need him to be "ninth-inning" good, just "normal bullpen role" good. The Fish have Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos, and Carter Capps among the incumbent names who could try to take the eighth inning for themselves, so the team does not need Marmol to be a world-beater like he (sometimes) was in the late 2000's. If the Fish can squeeze a 3.30 ERA/FIP out of Marmol, they would be extremely happy. And as bad as his 2013 season was, there is at least a little bit of hope that he can return to form.
One big change is simply going to be pitching in a better stadium this year. The move from Wrigley Field to Marlins Park for half of his outings alone should help. The difference in park factors between the two stadiums is 13 percent. Combine that with the fact that Marmol has been typically stingy over his career with the home run and you can see how his seven-dinger mark in just 47 innings might go down. Of course, good or bad luck may also swing this department one way or another, but on a one-year contract, the Marlins can bet on their stadium helping in that luck.
Marmol lost a number of strikeouts last season, and that played a role in his eventual struggles. His 26.2 percent rate was the lowest full-season mark he has ever posted. Miami clearly needs him to do better in that department, because he will never really gain more control.
But in terms of contact, it is not as though Marmol has significantly lost his edge. His whiff counts remain very similar.
|Marmol, Season||Swing%||OSwing%||ZSwing%||Contact%||OContact%||ZContact%||Swinging Strike%|
The numbers are worse in 2013, as expected, but overall they do not differ too much from the career version of Marmol. He is inducing more swings, which is good given his 11 percent strikeout rate. He is getting more outside swings as well, which has to be beneficial. Overall, there is a 1.4 percent bump in contact rate, and that may be due to declining stuff, but at least Marmol is not necessarily changing his approach.
The only thing that seems to be changing is his odds of putting the ball in the zone. His zone percentage last season was down four percent from his career 50 percent rate. But his pitches, even in terms of balls-to-called-strike ratio, appear almost normal for his career.
The pitches do not look all that different, aside from Marmol's strangely effective slider getting less effective last season. He is putting it in the strike zone a decent amount of the time and getting called strikes, but just fewer than he was before. This, unfortunately, is causing problems with increased walks and decreased strikeouts, but it looks like something that can return seeing as though everything else has remained fairly stable.
Last year was a down campaign for Marmol, but the numbers suggest he has a chance at rebirth with proper tutelage in Miami. The Marlins will afford him the chance to prove his worth, and he could earn himself a better payday next season a la Fernando Rodney if he proves capable of fixing himself. For $1.25 million in a roster spot that the team expressed a desire to improve upon, the Marlins could have done worse.
That being said, if you did not enjoy the LeoCoaster, get ready for the Marmol Express. He can provide quite the tedious inning when he is off the mark. The Marlins are hoping that is not the case often.
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