Sunday, July 12, 2009

The WBC Took My Closer Away

You probably saw it. The Dominican Republic was shocked, as Carlos Marmol imploded. Marmol gave up two runs, including the only earned run allowed by the Dominican during the 2009 World Baseball Classic (the team's 3-game ERA was an amazing 0.31), in the game that saw the team eliminated much earlier than anyone could've expected.

To recap: DR starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez set a WBC record by striking out 10 of the 13 batters he faced over 4 innings. Pedro Martinez threw another solid 3 innings and other relievers followed suit, giving zero runs through 10 total innings. However, the heavily favored DR team could not score against the team from the Netherlands, until the top of the 11th when they got a run across. Enter Marmol, for the save. He gave up a double and then a single, which tied the game at 1. He then made a wild pick-off attempt, allowing the winning run to go from first to third. Willy Aybar's error completed the comeback attempt for the Dutch.

Now, before the WBC, Kerry Wood had already signed with the Indians. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I was sad to see him go, but fully understood that he deserved a huge deal AND the risks that go with giving Kerry Wood a lot of money for a lot of years. Besides! We had Carlos Marmol! His ERA the past two years was about 2.00. He was striking out well over 1/IP, with walk totals around 1/3 of his strikeouts. Thank goodness they went out and got Kevin Gregg for insurance (although I think Sean Marshall is looking more and more like a dominant reliever every day).

We can't be sure if his WBC loss (and the shame that must've come from taking the L in a hugely embarrassing defeat for his country) has anything to do with his performance this year, but we can surely see he isn't the same player. Unlike last year, when he made the All-Star game as a set-up man, we are never quite sure if he will be able to locate his pitches. He can throw three tremendous pitches for strikes and then turn around and throw four straight balls that are not even close to even looking like strikes. His ERA, entering today's games, was still only 3.73 but his IP/K/W is: 41/45/41. Not terrible, but I would NOT want this guy closing games for my team right now.

To his credit, I will say that strange things seem to happen when he is on the mound. You can point to Aybar's error as the "real" reason the DR lost that game. Or take last night's Cubs/Cardinals game, when Marmol entered in the 9th with a 5-1 lead.

- Rasmus ground out.

- Pujols single. (OK, that's actually sort of a victory.)

- Ludwick walk.

- Then the weird play: ground ball to Marmol, throw to Theriot at second for one out, throw to Hoffpauir at first, runner safe. The play at second was close, but was clearly an out. The play at first was also close, and also clearly an out. As the FOX announcers said, I also have never seen this, but both managers ended up on the field to argue. LaRussa argued that Theriot missed the base at second (which he didn't) and Piniella argued that the throw beat the runner at first (which it did). While the throw to second was the wrong play to make with a 4-run lead, technically the game should've been over. Next of course...

- Molina single, Pujols scores a run.

- Wild pitch, runners advance. Piniella had seen enough at this point and brought Gregg in for the save.

As yesterday's game illustrated, Marmol spent the first half of this season getting himself into too many situations that he's had to pitch out of or have Gregg clean up for him.

Blame the WBC?

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