Carlos Marmol doesn’t have the highest career walk rate in baseball history. That honor belongs to Mitch Williams, who walked one of every six guys he faced. But Marmol isn’t far behind, and he’s the leader among actives. Marmol has a higher career walk rate than Jason Giambi. He has a higher career walk rate than Brian Giles and Mike Schmidt and Jeff Bagwell. Walks are just part of the package, and Marmol isn’t some kid anymore, so it’s not like they’re about to go away with a mechanical tweak. This is in part due to the fact that Marmol is hard to hit, so he ends up in a lot of deep counts. This is more in part due to the fact that Marmol has had really lousy command.
Control is said to be the ability to throw strikes. Command is said to be the ability to hit spots. We don’t have a measure of command, but we can assume that a guy with Marmol’s walk rate doesn’t list it as a strength on his hypothetical English-language pitcher resume. The walks are part of the reason the Cubs see Marmol as expendable. They’re part of the reason he doesn’t have much of a market, and they’re part of the reason he’s no longer closing. Everybody knows command is a Carlos Marmol weakness. And now we have fun with a quick project.
Marmol pitched on Wednesday, against the White Sox. He was handed the eighth inning, and he allowed a run on 19 pitches, 14 of which were strikes. He allowed a groundball double and he generated a pair of strikeouts. For no reason other than pure curiosity, I decided to investigate his command on the afternoon. How well was Marmol locating against his four opposing batters? Following, you are going to see 19 screenshots. The red dot indicates the catcher’s target, set before pitch release. The assumption is that the catcher was indeed setting a target with his glove. This isn’t always true, but we can’t do any better. And this isn’t science-science. This is just casual science. So, whatever. Follow along, and be thankful I made 19 screenshots instead of 19 .gifs.
We don’t know what Marmol usually looks like. We don’t know what an average pitcher usually looks like, or what a gifted pitcher usually looks like. I went into this not knowing what I’d see, and I’m still kind of tackling it blind. Let’s explore Carlos Marmol’s eighth-inning command.
Fastball, good spot. Good job!
Fastball, pretty good spot. Pretty good job!
Slider, bad miss. A little too high to crush, but nowhere close to down and away.
Slider, good miss, if a miss at all. After Dioner Navarro caught the pitch, he looked at Marmol and nodded, as if to say “good execution, good pitch.”
Slider, bad miss over the plate in a 1-and-2 count. Alexei Ramirez hit this pitch for a double.
Fastball, bad miss. Immediately, Marmol is behind.
Slider, perfect! All right, Carlos Marmol!
Slider, perfect again! Why even throw fastballs!
Slider, bad miss in the middle of the zone in a 1-and-2 count. Alex Rios fouled it off. It could’ve gone much worse.
Slider, perfect! Strikeout!
Fastball, bad miss on the opposite side of the plate. This is an inside fastball at the belt. This is not an outside fastball at the thigh.
Fastball, dreadful miss.
Slider, bad miss again. Adam Dunn is Marmol’s first lefty of the afternoon.
Slider, decent. The pitch was only on the edge of the zone, and Dunn swung through it, but it’s dangerous to throw a low, inside breaking ball to an opposite-handed hitter with pull power if you don’t keep it low enough.
Slider, good. It was a borderline strike in the low-away quadrant, and Dunn flew out.
Fastball, bad miss. Certainly don’t want to groove a heater to Hector Gimenez with no one on in a six-run ballgame.
Slider, perfect! Only throw sliders!
Slider, pretty good. It’s another low-inside breaking ball to an opposite-handed hitter, but Gimenez isn’t a Dunn-type threat, and the pitch stayed on the edge.
Slider, pretty good. Ahead 1-and-2, Marmol could’ve and should’ve buried it, instead of throwing a borderline strike, but Gimenez whiffed, and that was right in the corner. That’s what Navarro signaled for.
This has been an inning with Carlos Marmol. Marmol inherited a seven-run lead, and he threw 19 pitches. All of them were either fastballs or sliders. I subjectively characterized eight of them as bad misses, based on approximate intended locations and approximate actual locations. Some of the misses were worse than others, and again, I don’t know Marmol’s actual, true intent with each pitch. This is all guesswork, but it sated my curiosity. One thing I noticed was that there wasn’t much variation in Navarro’s targets. Maybe this is because the Cubs were up by seven. Maybe this is just how Navarro is. Maybe the Cubs realize it’s pointless to try to set targets for Carlos Marmol. Maybe the goal is to get Marmol to look down the middle, and then see where the pitch ends up. It usually isn’t down the middle.
In his Wednesday appearance, Marmol didn’t walk anybody. Was his command unusually good? Was his command actually unusually bad? Was his command more or less normal? What would another pitcher look like, given the same sort of examination? There’s more that could be done here. You’re next, Mariano Rivera, probably.
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