By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) A year ago, Carlos Marmol was virtually un-hittable.
Now he’s Mel Rojas.
And the mighty struggles of the Cubs’ once mighty closer seems to have everyone asking questions – even White Sox fans.
For example, this past Friday morning, after Marmol had walked the bases loaded and blown his third save in his last four chances during a 6-3 loss to Florida the night before, my buddy Dan – a Sox fan – shot me a text message.
It read: “Do you think Marmol is hurt?”
I wrote back, “Something sure is wrong with him.”
Now, I don’t know if that something is an injury. But I do know that 28-year-old closers only one season removed from going 38 for 43 in save opportunities, posting a 2.55 ERA and breaking Bruce Sutter’s franchise record for relief strikeouts, don’t fall apart like this.
Without good reason.
On Saturday, Cubs manager Mike Quade indefinitely put Marmol on the shelf – but not the disabled list – as the closer works out what the team is calling just a few little kinks.
“It’s nothing major,” Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins said less than convincingly. “Just a little adjustment.”
Marmol’s struggles, however, seem more than minor, considering that the former lights-out finisher has retired only one of the last nine batters he’s faced and hasn’t struck out a hitter in his last six appearances going back to July 3.
Again, this is a guy who, in 2010, fanned 138 in 77.2 innings. Right now, for 2011, he’s projected to strike out just 88 in 71.2.
Those numbers don’t add up.
And it does have me wondering if it there is trouble with Marmol’s arm. This past February, I wrote a blog entry entitled “The Trouble With Carlos Marmol?” in which I explained how my buddy Rob had raised concerns about the pitcher’s longevity.
He argued that Marmol’s pitching motion is too violent, his mechanics too suspect and his rocket of an arm too likely to end up suffering a serious injury.
I told him he’s seen too many Mark Prior and Kerry Wood horror movies.
But now I’m wondering if Rob might not have been prescient.
When the two of us were discussing Marmol, I did agree that his pitching motion is herky-jerky and he throws an exorbitant number of sliders. In fact, last season, a whopping 59 percent of his pitches were sliders. Among relievers during the past four years, few have approached Marmol’s slider usage rate, but the two closest – Michael Wuertz and Brad Lidge – both have had arm troubles.
Now, it seems that Marmol’s problem is that he’s lost command of his fastball. And his decline has many baseball experts encouraging the Cubs to deal him before the trade deadline.
But I’m wondering how much teams would currently be willing to even give up for him.
Because, even though,Marmol has spent only 16 days on the disabled list in his career – and all of those were in 2006 – he’s looking far less than able right now.
“He’s disappointed and frustrated,” Quade said about Marmol. “He’s good. If you’re good and you go through this, it’s not easy. It’ll probably be tough on him, but he’ll be the same guy he has been at some point.”
For the Cubs’ sake, I hope so.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.