Carlos Marmol has had back-to-back miserable outings. Worse, he’s clearly frustrated by the struggles, suggesting that it’s not just a matter of him “working on stuff.”

… but it’s just two outings. And it’s Spring. In Arizona. Where Marmol’s best pitch – his devastating slider – is virtually useless.

So, should we panic? No. Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum certainly isn’t. And he went on, at length, to explain why.

“Breaking balls like his aren’t going to do a whole lot here in Arizona,” Sveum said, according to ESPN. “You’re always going to struggle with it, and you’re going to throw it harder and make it spin more and it’s actually a counter effect.

“But I think all along we want him to get his fastball command, [that] is the biggest thing. We know the breaking ball will come back when we head back north. Just mainly getting the fastball, getting work and throwing strikes with the fastball.

“He’s been working as hard as he ever has. The people that have been around him know that he has been working as hard as he ever has. It’s a confidence thing. Don’t try to crank the breaking ball. It’s not going to work in Arizona. There’s no air here.

“Nobody’s breaking balls really break here, that’s why you see a lot of 15-14 games. There are a lot of fastballs and a lot of breaking balls that don’t break that much. He’s just got to be careful to get frustrated with that.”

Sveum doth protest too much? I don’t think so. I think it’s a legitimate explanation, even if a mildly concerning one. You’d like to think your closer could at least still throw strikes, even if he’s limited to throwing a fastball.

The issue there might be mechanical, and Sveum says the Cubs continue to work on it.

“The adjustments are the adjustments,” Sveum said. “But we have to be able to do that out on the mound when we know, ‘The first pitch of the inning I fly right open and the ball goes up and away, and I have to get right back on the mound and make that adjustment.’ Those adjustments have to be made, but we have to slow it down and be able to do it on the mound.”

As long as Marmol is healthy, I don’t plan to be particularly worried until the regular season starts.

When Marmol walks the first two guys after coming on for his first save of the year…

  • Luke

    Pitching numbers in AZ are very hard to interpret because of the thin air factor.  Some balls just don’t break, and that means without seeing the pitcher we have no idea how they actually look.  Besides, we’ll have plenty of time to panic once the season starts.

    • Stockholm Cubs

      Does that mean that Cubs won’t use Marmol in the southwest during the season? Has that been the case previous seasons as well?

      • Justin Jabs

        Yeah, I’m wondering that a bit too.

        • SirCub

          Hmm… remember the 2007 NLDS in Arizona? Maybe that had something to do with it.

      • Brett

        The air thickens up a bit in the Summer (a little more moisture in the air, that is), so it’s not quite as bad.

        • DocWimsey

          I wonder what it is about humidity that helps pitchers? It makes the air thinner, so you would think that it works against them, but too many pitchers say the opposite.

          • Luke

            Humidity makes the air thinner?  I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, at least not at all temperatures.  The extra water vapor in the air increases the amount of friction between the air and the ball, resulting in an enhanced effect from the ball’s spin as opposed to dry air.

            Or at least that’s what I’ve always understood.  But the effect seems to be much more pronounced in warm weather than cool weather.  Then again, the amount of water in the air can be higher in warm weather as well.

            Edit:  Ok, I see what you’re saying.  It is absolutely true that at a given temperature/pressure, humid air is less dense than dry air.  However, when we introduce meteorology to the equation, the value of that statement goes right out the window.

            High humidity is heavily correlated with high atmospheric pressure, which in turn has an effect on the flight of the ball.  In effect, that means that breaking balls tend to be more effective in humid weather due to the correlating air pressure, not the humidity.

          • BD
          • bluekoolaidaholic

            Doc has proven himself once again to be an expert, knowing much more than the rest of us, this time on Hot Air..

            • DocWimsey

              touché! Seriously, that article explains it really well. Still, pitchers seem to think that they fare better with higher humidity, so there must be something to it even if it is not what they think. (Sadly, science education is not a high priority for most baseball players, except maybe Mike Marshall!) My guess is that it improves their grip on the ball.

              • Luke

                The correlation between high humidity and high air pressure should explain the changes in ball movement.  Correlation is often mistaken for causation.

                • NEcubsfan

                  Um, what? Since when is high air pressure correlated with high humidity? I believe the opposite to be true. Two examples: 1) Hurricane. Very high relative humidity, extremely low barometric pressure. 2) Cold clear winter day, very low relative humidity, very high barometric pressure. I know these two statements are true, however I am not a meteorologist, so perhaps there is more to the equation that I don’t understand.

                  • DocWimsey

                    The relationship is actually explained (at least partially) at the molecular level. Water molecules are take up nearly as much space as do N2 or O2 molecules, but they weigh a lot less. So, the same volume of air has less mass. Humid air feels “heavier” to us simply because our sweat doesn’t evaporate in high humidity.

                    Baseballs don’t sweat, and they carry further in humid air than dry air (given the same temperature, altitude and wind-conditions).

                    My guess is that having the extra sweat on a pitcher’s hand gives them a somewhat better grip: a completely dry baseball feels “slippery” (as many pitchers note on cold days). Arizona gives the extra whammy of reducing the air pressure because of high altitudes: so, no sweat AND reduced air pressure at the same time!

                    • Brett

                      I know you already said it, but the whole dry air/humid air thing runs contrary to what the “common wisdom” is about baseball performance – namely, that the ball doesn’t carry in humid air, and carries much better in dry air.

                      And, it could be that it isn’t about the ball slicing through the air so much as it is the condition of the balls, themselves. For example, that’s why they installed the humidor at Coors Field – a humid ball travels less far than a dry, hard ball.

  • Fishin Phil

    If he were just having a bad spring, I wouldn’t care at all. Coupled with his craptastic season in 2011, I am a bit concerned.

    • SirCub

      When good players have bad springs, it is no cause for concern. When bad players have great springs, it is no cause for rejoice.

      When bad players have bad springs…

    • Brett

      Despite the joking nature of the title, that’s actually where I land, too.

  • florida Al

    el trade to miami…

  • Stinky Pete

    Is that why we were swept in 2007?

    • DocWimsey

      No, the Cubs were facing a better team: like 75+% of LDS series, the team that played better in September won. You expect 30% of those to be sweeps just by chance alone.

      • Steve

        Thats 105% no?

        • Andrew

          math troll

      • DocWimsey

        30% of 75% is a little less than 105%……

        • Mike Foster

          Doc, that’s because it’s Pi Day, right?

          • DocWimsey

            May the circumference of happiness be ever irrational!

            Hey Brett, you should put up the i and pi pic again…..

            • Brett

              NOO!!!!! I missed Pi Day in the Bullets!!!!!!! I am ashamed.

              • CubFan Paul

                I had key lime pie yogurt for breakfast

  • Kyle

    Unrelated: Jacob Turner, who I was dying to get in a Garza trade, is being shut down with shoulder problems.

    • Richard Nose

      I can’t tell if it’s good or bad that the c*r$e is rubbing off on anyone the Cubs talk about now.

  • Norm

    What is different about Marmol today that we didn’t know last September?

    • TWC

      Is this a koan?

    • hardtop

      his butt is slightly smaller

  • Eric

    I do know that Arizona is gonna hurt the movement on Marmo’s OS stuff which is his best stuff. So overall what you want to watch is, is his fastball hitting the strikezone? Is he painting the corners well? IE: is is command good? Overall I don’t expect much out of Marmol, I just have an irrational fear it’s all downhill from here. But his ST so far isn’t the only reason.

  • rocky8263

    Dew point is another factor in Arizona baseball.

  • mark

    Panic? Not me! Seen it before, learned to live with it.

  • Spencer

    lol on the Bottom Line on ESPN today:
    Top three relief pitchers on the decline:
    #1 – Carlos Marmol

  • JungleDrew

    Im sorry but this whole article would be far more reassuring if the pic. was the cover of “The hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”

  • Cubbies4Life

    Yeah… dew point. And moon phase.