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Carlos Marmol wasn’t particularly good last year. This, we all know, and rehashing it is unnecessary at this point.

The reasons for Marmol’s struggles were probably both numerous and varied, but I think we can point to at least two of them without much argument: (1) conditioning, and (2) stuff. They both appeared to be flagging last year – Marmol looked larger than he’s looked in years past, and something looked off about Marmol’s typically devastating slider.

Those two issues may not have been Marmol’s only problems last year, but they may be two issues already in his past. That’s because Marmol came to camp lighter than last year, and he’s already changed his mechanics and ditched a pitch that wasn’t working for him.

“I worked hard out there and I’m going to try to work more than the year before and have a better year,” Marmol said of an offseason spent running, working out, and riding horses (seriously) in the Dominican Republic. The work paid off, with Marmol having lost as much as 15 pounds.

He’s also already been working on his mechanics with new pitching coach Chris Bosio and manager Dale Sveum.

“Chris Bosio has talked to [Marmol] about a few mechanical things about his shoulders and keeping his shoulders level and things like that,” Sveum said. “He wants to lean back and crank velocity and create arm strength through his shoulders, and then he gets out of whack. It’s more just keeping his shoulders in line with the strike zone. I think that will help him tremendously.

“Every time ‘Bos’ mentioned it to him after a scud, right away he got his shoulders back on line and made quality pitches. Some guys, it’s big fixes, and some guys, if they take to it in the right language it hits home with them.”

Moreover, in a bullpen session yesterday, it sounds like Marmol’s characteristically violent follow-through – you know, the one that leaves him halfway over to first base with his back almost facing the batter – was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure it will pop up every now and again, assuming it doesn’t make a full-on return by the time the season rolls around, but it could be mostly gone (in the same way that Alfonso Soriano’s “hop” was mostly gone last year).

Perhaps most importantly, Bosio and Sveum told Marmol to ditch his cut fastball, with which Marmol had little to no success last year.

“We might have just told him to wipe out his cutter he threw last year,” Sveum said. “I think he admits it caused him a lot of problems and got him a little out of whack. He is what he is. He’s an impressive closer but he’s a slider guy with one of the best, unhittable sliders we’ve seen in a long time. That’s what he is.”

Marmol’s cut fastball, theoretically, tailed hard left. But, as astutely suggested by Harry Pavlidis, who spoke at length about Marmol’s issues last year, there’s a bit of a problem when your three pitches are roughly as follows: a 92 MPH fastball with little movement, an 89 MPH cut fastball that moves hard left, and an 86 MPH slider that moves hard left and down. In short, there isn’t enough differentiation between the pitches.

So, the cut fastball is gone (perhaps taught to him by Kerry Wood, who himself learned it from Mariano Rivera – proof that not everyone, no matter how talented or how hard they work at it, can execute all pitches), and Marmol will probably be back to being more of a two pitch guy. With a little more zip and location on his fastball, two pitches is really all Marmol needs to be successful.

A reformed Marmol could mean more to the Cubs than you think. The Cubs went on to lose 8 of the 10 games in which Marmol blew a save. If Marmol pulled an Eric Gagne and converted all of those save chances, the Cubs go 79-83 last year. That may not sound like a great season, but it represents a single player taking a team from 71-91 to near .500.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Hopefully, trade bait.

  • mysterious4th

    Maybe he will have a bounce back year just like soto and byrd and we can have some pretty sweet trade bate this year! Stock up our farm system!

  • MichiganGoat

    I was shocked (okay not really) when I read on twitter this morning that Quade & Riggins were unaware that Marmol was working on a cutter.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      Jesus, the 2011 Cubs were worse than we thought. For everyone that thinks a manager doesn’t make a big difference, I think the Cubs will prove them wrong.

      • BetterNews

        Hansman-Wow! You think a manager makes that big of a difference?

        • art

          in this case i believe it makes a difference. Q flat out stunk, was over his head, cost them many games. not saying they would have made the playoffs with some one else, i’m saying Q made them worse, IMO.

          • ferrets_bueller

            I think with a real manager, they could have been .500.  Managers dont win games, but they sure as hell can lose them.  Mikey Quaalude was a trainwreck from day one.

            • die hard

              wonder what you were thinking about him when he finished 2010 on upswing after good minor league career?….I am sure you were looking forward to him managing in 2011….as were most of us, me included….the team was a train wreck waiting to happen and he had misfortune of being the engineer of the runaway train..would have taken a miracle the likes of only Denzel Washington or the man he was portraying could have avoided

            • BT

              Riiiight. A crafty manager would have taken a team with ONE starting pitcher with an ERA+ above 100 and turned in a .500 record. I for one am ready to buy my playoff tickets since getting rid of Quade is apparently worth a 10 game swing in the standings all by itself. It wasn’t the fact that we were trotting out Coleman, Russell, Ortiz, Lopez and Doug Davis on out there on a daily basis. It was because Quade submitted bad lineups.

      • mysterious4th

        I don’t think Quade and riggins were aware of that much.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t know. I heard that, too. It would really surprise me – not because I’m defending Quade, but it would be very hard for *any* coaching staff not to notice. Seems even stranger, though, that Marmol didn’t, like, talk to the coaches about it so they could help him.

      • MichiganGoat

        Agreed but I saw the conversation you were having this morning on twitter and it wouldn’t surprise me if they may have know about it but were powerless to stop or control the players.

    • butlerdawgs

      I find that hard to believe, too. If it does turn out to be true, then they were even more out of touch than I thought. I feel like that is something that is communicated from player to coach or the coach should at least notice it.

    • MichiganGoat

      It was apparently reported by The Score this morning.

  • butlerdawgs

    Maybe Sveum’s thing is to take off the last two letters of a player’s last name for their nickname rather than adding a y like the Q-ball. I like it; it shows that he gets down to business like ‘yea i know you have more to your last name, but I got a game to win.’

    • ferrets_bueller

      That would be hilarious if Pie was here.  Or if the Cubs call up Ha.

  • Deer

    Was this Wood’s strategy to get his job back? Screw up a dominant closer by getting in his ear every day about Rivera’s cutter, all the time knowing no one else in the world can throw it like him? Just maybe people do desperate things when family’s involved.

    • TWC

      Brilliant die hard impression, pal.

  • TeddyBallGame

    This is great stuff Brett, thanks!!! It may only be me, but what I’m noticing from the new coaching staff/front-office is they don’t speak in general terms, they talk specifics. As recently as last year, we’d hear “uh, yeah, we’re working on some things to change his delivery” where now they’re talking about the exact changes in delivery/mechanics that are being changed. Not only is it nice to hear whats going on, but as of now it seems like these guys really go after what they beilieve in and teach it to the fullest extent. Oh yeah, they’re honest to us, the fans. Nothing gets me more fired up than the start of baseball season. Warmer weather, less clothes on women…life is gonna be even better in mere weeks…

  • die hard

    Marmol to KC for Soria giving both a change of scenery to revive game may work

  • EQ76

    I hope he can bounce back.. he’s a top 5 closer when he’s on.. he’s bottom 5 if he repeats last year’s performance. I can’t understand why some of you want everyone traded on this team?? Marmol was almost completely unhittable for 2-3 seasons.. who wouldn’t want the old Marmol back? Dude can be dominant when he’s right.

    • butlerdawgs

      I think it’s more about there being an abundance of young, cheaper arms in the minor leagues that could do a pretty good job too. If the Cubs can trade him away and get a few pieces in return that would help them out in other areas without missing a beat with a replacement, why not do it? I love Marmol (even last year when he had that extra junk in the trunk), but I wouldn’t mind seeing what he could give the Cubs in return.

      • Frank

        That’s true–but the key is whether or not the replacements can do the same job, or better, than whom they’re replacing. You’d probably be hard pressed to replace the Marmol of a couple of years ago–as EQ76 says, he was nearly unhittable. And–prospects don’t always pan out. We hope that this FO does a better job in identifying major league prospects, but even a lot of “can’t miss” guys actually do miss.

  • Diesel

    I love baseball!

  • OlderStyle

    A cutter is for a pitcher that can locate it. For Marmol, it was a lost cause to begin with since he is definitely not a control pitcher. His m.o. is of the wildly effective type.

    “Every time ‘Bos’ mentioned it to him after a scud…” – So, “scud” has made it into the baseball lexicon? Interesting. Is “tomahawk” the new “hitting his spot”?

  • TeddyBallGame

    I 100% agree EQ76. If we were gonna trade Marmol it would’ve been when either his value was high or the closer market made his value higher than it should be. Neither of these cases are currently true. We need to sell high-buy low. We know the FO loves to do this and it seems to have worked for them in the past. Two seasons ago, watching Marmol was almost laughable because guys were swinging and missing the ball by 5 feet. He was a lot of fun to watch. Sloppy coaching creates sloppy habits with your players. This coaching staff seems like they’re going things with a fine tooth comb and correcting any issues immediately. They’re not seeing how things go, they know what needs to be changed and they’re changing it.

    • Pat

      True. But even two years ago when he was striking out the world, he also managed to walk 7.8 per 9. It’s not like the inability to throw strikes was something new last year.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Yup, spot on. His walks were in line – he just got hit a whole lot more. That also led to more homers.

        • ferrets_bueller

          I just really don’t think his stuff is there anymore.   I really wanted us to trade him this offseason, regardless of whether the Cubs were building, or going for it.

          I really hope he regains it for a while, long enough for us to get something out of him in a trade.

          • King Jeff

            I don’t think trading Marmol was a matter of the Cubs keeping a better team or not. I think the bottom fell out of the closer market, and they might not have been able to give Marmol away at some points this winter. His value should be higher around the trade deadline, so maybe we’ll still see him moved.

  • BetterNews

    How could the A’s sign Manny! Unbelievable.

    • die hard

      to mentor Cespedes?

  • Wilbur

    Totally different topic. Going to be in Mesa 3/10 through 3/16, with an excursion to Grand Canyon in the middle of the week. Taking wife and youngest daughter, who claims it was only the Great Canyon, as it was not as deep, when I was there as a younger man.

    Any tips about watching workouts, where to sit during games, places to eat in area, etc. I’m more of a “Dinner and Dive” type.

    Appreciate any comments. Thanks in advance …

    • TWC

      Wilbur, I’d highly recommend sitting on the outfield lawn. Cheap seats, easy to wander around, people walking by with buckets of beer… it’s pretty nice. Not sure how young your daughter is, but we took our then-3-y.o. a few years back and the lawn can’t be beat. Also, if you have the chance, try to check out some of the other parks, too. They’re all pretty cheap and fun.

      On the Grand Canyon trip, I’d recommend checking out some of the other National Monuments on the way. I’m going to spell this wrong, I know (iPhone typing at an airport), but Tuzigoot is cool, as is Sunset Crater and… damn, can’t think of it. A cliff dwelling… it shouldn’t be that difficult to find. The town of Jerome is also a pretty neat spot, but it’s nowhere near anything. Sedona blows. Unless you like crystals. I hope you don’t.

      Have fun. I’m jealous of all of you making that trip this year.

    • scorecard paul

      Wilbur, you will love it. just go to the training center a few blocks down from the stadium. You can’t miss it. They will be all over the place. My advice, is tell wife and daughter to spend a day shopping, and pack a lunch and head to the training complex early, take a camera, and plan on hanging out. If they drop you off, make sure there isn’t a game that day. try to pick up an away game, they are very close, and the stadium wont be as packed.

    • ty

      wilbur-pretty good selection of food at HoHo–some midwestern vendors from the city and Iowa-sort of state fair selections. Each person can bring in two bottles of water sealed-they do inspect all bags. Parking is plentiful on soccer fields only a few feet from stadium-5 dollars or you can park for free two blocks away off of brown and center-cold water sold for a buck by guys out of coolers just away from stadium. Sun-block is a must even now-temp fine but sun is so bright. You can get free player info with their numbers at Fitch Field every a.m.3 blocks from HoHoKam. Cub dugout is on first baseside and guys will sign a lot from dugout down first baseline.right up to gametime. So far at Fitch professional collectors are over in Tempe 20 minutes away dogging Pujols which is a good thing. Watch for limited night games and catch the Giants, Angels, Oakland–look for Billy Beane as he is the guy with a cell in each ear walking the right field concourses. These clubs are all within 20 minutes of HoHo. Few resturants near HoHo but Scotsdale is just minutes away. Most hotels are filled with players,media,etc. Just get away from the ballparks and drive into Chandler and prices are only jacked a bit. Chicago influence everywhere in our area for pizza and dogs and barbecue. Drive to Grand Canyon a bit dangerous as some miles of two lane mountainous highway with people taking some chances from Phoenix to Park. I drive frequently this route to Vegas and I swear that everytime will be my last. Players and their families are everywhere–riding bicycles-jogging-at Walgreens-stores-resturants so never know who you will see. Enjoy

      • Wilbur

        Thanks everyone

        • die hard

          went to Tucson to get away from crowds…recommend the Deli there…

          • TWC

            There’s also a supremely excellent Guatemalan restaurant there. Cheap, too.

            • die hard

              Maya Quetzal I believe…was there once too and was good

              • TWC

                Yep, that’s the one. Highly recommended.

    • scorecard paul

      Wilbur,
      check out this website. I’m quite sure you will love it.
      http://www.boysofspring.com/tips.html

  • die hard

    Shlomo & Vito’s is the name of the NY Deli in Tucson…best in area, I believe

  • MichiganGoat

    Here a stat to discuss among yourselves:
    “@TotalCubsMove: Carlos Marmol has the most strikeouts by a reliever since 2007 with 540. Papelbon is second with a measly 400 strikeouts”

    Goes to show how looking at one stat (strikeouts) does nothing to measure a players performance.

    • Brady

      That is kinda suprising considering he is a closer. Now that I think about it, how many innings more than any other closer did he pitch? If you were to say he had the highest K/9 over any other closer I’d find it odd that he isnt a good closer (as he pitches maybe 1-2 innings at a time and if you get at least 1 strikeout in that 1 inning that helps a ton in closing out games). Well as long as he can shape up this year and not throw games I will be happy.

      Edit: Just realized it probably sounds like I am implying he throws them purposefully, I do not mean that.

  • Brady

    Ok, so I am a little late to the discussion but I just finished reading this article on mlb.com about Rivera throwing out strong suggestions that this may be his last season (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120220&content_id=26764090&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb). Now say this is the case and Marmol has a decent year, I say we deal him but do you think the yanks would be interested? Just a thought and would like to hear someone elses thoughts on the matter.

    • daveyrosello

      Yankees don’t need another closer, that’s why they signed Soriano to a big bucks deal last year, he is the setup man now, and the closer-in-waiting for when Rivera finally hangs them up.

      • Brady

        Ah, ok. I dont know much about the Yankees other than the usual highlights and that is why I posed the question.

  • CUB5

    Good to hear he is more in shape this year. We could really use another option for set-up/closer, and if he’s anywhere near 2008 I’ll take it. I don’t think they can afford to blow too many saves this season.

    • BetterNews

      I would say there’s an 90% chance Marmol will not be with the team next year and 70% he will not be with the team in September. I am really surprised he is breaking spring training with the team and can only suspect Cubs had no reasonable offers for him over the winter.

  • OHBearCub

    I don’t think that Marmol needs to be traded. He simply needs a coaching staff that has the capability to guide him properly. I think Rothschild did a decent job of holding him together as he made many trips to the mound to give him instruction during games. Not that Rothschild was the best pitching coach, he however did have much better results with the pitching staff during his time as pitching coach. I am more than willing to give Marmol a long look this year. It sounds like he has a new direction and a plan his coaches can keep him focused on. Marmol needs to assume his important role on this team. I don’t think anybody assumed their roles properly on last years team. That can be attributed to the coaching staff not defining them properly and not coaching players properly with regards to fundamentals and mechanics. This was demonstrated all season with costly errors and poor pitching. I have to believe that if the Cubs had a real coaching staff last year the seasons record would have been much better. I believe the new coaching staff will produce a team that is strong on fundamentals and show marked improvement in all area’s. I believe this coaching staff will bring out the best in everyone on this team and all facets of the game. I hope for a stronger showing than most expect.

    • BetterNews

      I don’t think Marmol’s wildness is a coaching issue. He has been plagued with control issues his entire career. He is going on 30 years old. He finished last September with a 1.63 Whip and 5.45 ERA. I think Dolis is the future as far as our closer goes.

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