2013 in brief: I’m trying to figure out a nice way to say “not quite as awful as we expected”.
2014 status: Free agent.
Everyone thank Paul for pitching in with a great job on reviewing Marmol. Thanks, Paul!
The fact that Mike was willing to hand this review off to me probably tells you most of what you need to know about Carlos Marmol’s time as a Dodger. But let’s not forget that there was once a time when waking up to “Dodgers acquire Carlos Marmol” would have been a big deal. The type of deal where you’d expect a top prospect headed to Chicago and an argument about the relative value of “closers” to ensue. Of course, those are no longer the circumstances, and here we are trying to make some sense of the enigma that is Carlos Marmol.
When the rumors started to surface that the Dodgers may have a trade for Marmol in the works, the consensus response seemed to go something like, “Oh God, why?!?!?” and with good reason. He was no longer considered a dominant closer– or even an effective major league pitcher really. He had become something of a poster boy for the ill-advised, long term, big money contract to an eminently replaceable relief pitcher. The only explanation seemed to be that Ned Colletti was involved in an elaborate scheme to get all of baseball’s washed up closers in one room for a group photo. Who was next? Was Dennis Eckersley coming out of retirement? (No.) Brian Wilson? (Yes.)
However, through either uncanny foresight or some inside information, Mike cautioned us to wait for the details before making our final judgments, insisting that we weren’t going to hate it as much as we might think. When we learned that the player headed out the door was Matt Guerrier, we all breathed a collective sigh of a relief. When we found out that Marmol had agreed to spend some time in the minor leagues and that we would also receive international cap space along with some cash, we were actually sort of happy about the whole thing.
The temptation here is to turn this review into an exploration of just how useless Guerrier and his awful contract turned out (useless enough that Marmol was seen as a marginal improvement), but that’s a discussion for another day. The fact is that Colletti had managed to turn a seat-filler into a lottery ticket, the type of trade that GMs rarely get any credit for but sometimes pays dividends.
The next step was to figure out what exactly we were getting back. We knew that Marmol boasted ungodly strikeout numbers– along with the requisite “control issues,” and we knew that he had managed a 2.8 WAR season as recently as 2010, so there was at least a sliver of hope that he may provide some value.
Chad Moriyama took note of some glaring mechanical flaws and the almost comical inconsistency in his release point, wondering if it might be the sort of issue where Rick Honeycutt could work a miracle. Of course, the term “mechanical flaw” almost seems a little tongue in cheek in this context considering that even at its best Marmol’s entire delivery is essentially one giant mechanical flaw. It’s the sort of delivery that causes pitching coaches to retire early and makes Tim Lincecum say “that can’t be healthy.” When he starts throwing in the bullpen the broadcast immediately flashes a “viewer discretion advised” warning across the screen.
In any case, we knew that he would be on a short leash, and his debut with the big club was less than reassuring. In 1.2 innings of mop-up work against Toronto he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk, and to be completely honest, even most of the outs weren’t particularly convincing.
But something strange happened as the season went on. Curb your expectations; this isn’t a Cinderella story or anything close to one. What happened was Marmol became a “somewhat useful if less than reliable” cog in the bullpen, which is about the best we could have reasonably hoped for. I stand by my use of the word enigma because he ended up posting an 11.4 K/9 rate as a Dodger. That’s approaching Kenley Jansen territory. The punch line, of course, is that despite the elite strikeout rate, his K/BB ratio was an atrocious 1.42. Walking 8 men per 9 innings will do that to you. All in all, he pitched 21.1 innings for the Dodgers with a 2.53 ERA, which is something. He even hit a ball to the warning track in an extra inning game that momentarily Steinered Yasiel Puig. I’m sure there’s a gif of it somewhere.
The point here isn’t that Marmol was good. It’s that he was something. And sometimes “something” is enough to make you a worthwhile addition to a playoff roster. If on June 15 you had placed money on “Carlos Marmol will pitch 3.2 scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS,” please come forward to claim your fortune.
Marmol is now a free agent, and trying to assess whether or not he has any value in this market is above my pay grade. If it were up to me I’d hand him a non-roster invite to spring training just because he’s a warm body who used to be good, though something tells me there are enough teams desperate for bullpen help that he’ll talk his way into a guaranteed major league deal somewhere.
So long, Carlos. Thanks for not being Matt Guerrier!
Next! How many of you remember that Josh Wall pitched for the Dodgers in 2013?