If ever there was a “bad” win for a 57-win team, this was it. I hate to criticize any Cubs win, but if you look more closely at the stats, there is a lot of concern even from the good players.
The biggest question is Carlos Marmol – Marmol entered the game with runners on 1st and 2nd base and 2 outs in the top of the 8th inning with the Cubs leading 5-2. Sean Marshall – who bailed out Andrew Cashner with a strikeout with a runner in scoring position in the 7th inning – struck out 2 batters in the inning but also allowed 2 runners on with a walk and an error (I’ll get to the error later). Marmol promptly walked the 1st two batters that he faced to force in a run which cut the Cubs lead to 5-3. Sure Marmol got the next batter out with a strikeout, but by then the damage was already done. Marmol walked another batter in the 9th inning as well, giving him 3 walks in an inning and a third in his outing. Marmol seems to have resorted to his old habits of walking way to many batters in his outings. In his 5 appearances from August 15th through August 24th, he walked at least 1 batter in each outing. He issued 3 walks in a blown save showing against the Braves as all 3 runners scored. Luckily he got out of yesterday’s innings despite the walks, but how much can we rely upon Marmol in the future. After starting the season with a respectable strikeout to walk ratio, those walk numbers are slowly creeping up again. In 2010, he has now walked 45 batters while striking out 113. In 2009 he walked a career-high 65 batters, so depending on how the rest of this month goes, he could come close to that number again (let’s hope not). Keep in mind, he walked only 35 batters in 2007 and just 41 in 2008. He’s already eclipsed those numbers this year and we still have 30 games to go. Batters have only a .167 batting average against Marmol in 2010 (with a career batting average against of .179), so someone needs to get through to him that he cannot keep giving up free passes in his outings. While it is widely accepted that closers are typically “wild”, I would disagree with this. Take the top 4 saves leaders in the majors this season, and you’ll see that they have impeccable control – Rays’ Rafael Soriano – 11 walks; Giants’ Brian Wilson – 22 walks; Padres’ Heath Bell – 22 walks; and Royals’ Joakim Soria – 14 walks. Only 1 closer has more than 30 walks during the course of the season – Francisco Cordero of the Reds with 35. After that, the next highest is 29 walks by the Tigers’ Jose Valverde. Somehow, pitching coaches have worked with these closers to limit their walks. So if the Cubs do intend to continue to rely upon Marmol to be the team’s closer of the future, maybe it’s time for Larry Rothschild to go the way of Lou Pinella following the 2010 MLB season. He has been Marmol’s pitching coach for his entire career at the major league level and he hasn’t figured out what Marmol needs to do to be more efficient on the mound. Hopefully the new manager’s new pitching coach will be able to do that in 2011.
I’ve also been a little disappointed with Sean Marshall’s outings of late. Now I know he was SO good early on that you can’t expect that every time out, but he seems to have lost his focus of late. It’s hard when you are playing on one of the worst teams in baseball with one of the worst fielding team’s behind you as well, but the walks are killing me. Since August 4th, Marshall has issued a walk in 7 of his 14 outings (8 total walks). If you go back to the entire month of July, he issued a walk in only 3 of his 16 appearances (4 total walks). He issued 5 walks in all of June, 7 walks in all of May and only 1 walk in the month of April. I’m not sure if he is just not as sharp because of the grueling season or because it is frustrating to go out there each day and know that you are probably going to lose, but I hope this does not carry over into the 2011 MLB season.
Well enough of the negative. Thomas Diamond relieved Tom Gorzelanny after he was hit with a line drive in the 3rd inning. He gave up 2 ER on 2 hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings, but it was good enough to pick up his 1st major league win.
Kosuke Fukudome continued his hot hitting. He had 3 more hits with an RBI and 2 runs scored. He increased his batting average to .281 and has looked more confident at the plate once again. I’m not sure why he always has a “summertime swoon” (maybe Chicago baseball is too hot for him), but if he keeps this up, it could help the team to move him in the off-season even if they have to eat some of his salary. Unlike the Carlos Zambrano situation where I would NOT want to eat his salary in order to move him, I wouldn’t mind doing that to get rid of Fukudome. He has had 3 years to prove himself and it just doesn’t add up at the major league level. Plus, moving Fukudome would free up Tyler Colvin to play right field on a daily basis so that the club can scrap the 1st base experiment.
Starlin Castro had 2 hits and 2 runs scored and is now tied for 3rd place in the National League batting crown with a .317 batting average.
The Cubs welcome the New York Mets – another underachieving, frustrated team – to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field this Labor Day Weekend. Randy Wells will face off against knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey in Friday afternoon’s opener.