KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Chicago Cubs?
What was wrong with Carlos Marmol?
The right-hander is due nearly $17 million between this year and next, so the Cubs better hope that they've figured out the answer. The thing is, Marmol wasn't nearly as bad, statistically, last year as he was in 2010, and yet the club was willing to commit to him as its closer in 2010, so long as he proved that his massive control problems wouldn't hinder him.
Marmolade hasn't spoiled yet
Physically, there was certainly something different in 2011, however. The average velocity of his numero uno dipped by about 2 mph, and the break on his slider wasn't nearly as prominent. He uses the former to set up the latter, and neither was working nearly as well as he was accustomed.
His struggles began early in the season, and side work helped, but not enough. Then-skipper Mike Quade insisted that Marmol must be focused on maintaining a consistent arm slot, but he didn't seem to get through. Finally, Quade gave his reliever a temp break from the closer's role, only to give it back a week later, when the group seemed confident that they'd fixed the problem.
Problems continued, however; as quickly as Chicago saw positive signs, the negatives resurfaced. To make matters worse, Marmol made six appearances in eight days in August, which led to assertions that Quade wasn't managing him properly. The quote from Quade was accurate: Marmol's mechanics are unorthodox, and he hadn't faced much adversity in the majors until then. The implication in the article - that his inconsistent usage pattern was responsible for Marmol's burnout - was probably off the mark, though.
The Cubs' staff sent confusing signals to its talented closer by working with him sporadically and failing to reinforce the message that they were committed to correcting his issues before holding them against his performance. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder's windup was broken, and some side sessions here and a week off from the ninth there weren't going to fix it.
You may have heard: A new management team is in place in the Windy City. This crew has quality experience handling people and other assets. New GM Jed Hoyer said last November that he doesn't envision Marmol losing his job. New manager Dale Sveum backed that up after he was hired, and judging from his comments to the media, he has a clear understanding of how to manage his players.
The new man in charge also believes that fastball command and re-establishment of the slider are the factors in resuscitating Marmol's dominance in the ninth. Expect Chicago's coaches to work extensively with the pitcher on his mechanics, which should aid in the restoration of those things, to the point where he can be the pitcher fantasy baseball players are used to seeing.
Roto players must have a certain amount of faith in the Cubs' ability to do so, and their competition will let them get away with some risk mitigation. Marmol is only 29 and at times last season showed that he still has the filthy stuff. Note this: Chicago has no immediate heir apparent, so they're going to take a long time to evaluate him. They believe he can still be that guy (even if he becomes trade bait down the road because of it).
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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