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Carlos Marmol: On Thin Ice?

You’ve surely heard by now, but Carlos Marmol blew the routinest of saves last night, coughing up a three-run lead against the Astros. He got a fly ball for the first out, but then came a single, a wild pitch (runner to second), another single (runner to third), a walk to load the bases, then a walk-off grand slam by Brian Bogusevic. Closers blow saves, sometimes spectacularly, but the fact that Marmol temporarily lost his job last month makes this a little more interesting.

During a three appearance span from July 8th-14th, Marmol blew two saves, allowing seven total runs in just 1.1 IP. He walked five and struck out just one, allowing three hits. Sean Marshall took over ninth inning duties for a while, and Marmol did some eighth inning work. He’d pitched pretty well since them, allowing runs in just three of 16 appearances and going a perfect 9-for-9 in save chances before last night’s disaster. It’s worth noting that he nearly blew a save against the Nationals last week, putting four guys on base and allowing a run to score after entering with a two-run lead.

Marmol’s peripherals are still very good, but his strikeout rate is back to where it was from 2007-2009. I didn’t think 15.99 K/9 was sustainable anyway. He still walks a ton of guys, but his 5.65 BB/9 this season is his best since 2008. His ground ball rate is fine as well. The velocity stuff is interesting, because Marmol’s fastball has been trending downward since the start of last year while his slider velo has crept up this year. Remember, he’s slider heavy, throwing that pitch almost 60% of the time. A slower fastball and a faster slider means less separation between the two pitches, which is generally bad news.

The x-factor here is Marmol’s contract. He inked a three-year pact worth $20M this past February, and that alone could keep him in the closer’s role for the time being. Another temporary demotion is possible, but I think Marmol is still a ways off from being permanently replaced. Keep Marshall (or even Kerry Wood) on reserve, but the end of the season is coming up and the winter has a way of giving closers a fresh start (see Jonathan Broxton this year). Marmol is far from reliable, but it seems like he’s still the guy for the time being.