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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Marmol on record-setting pace

By Kevin Conlon, ESPN Stats and Info

Most of the talk on the North Side so far this season has centered around the Cubs slow start. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have stolen headlines with poor starts, the middle relief has been inconsistent at best and Chicago is five games under .500 and already looking way up at the St. Louis Cardinals. But in looking deeper one will find a fantastic start that has been overlooked.

Carlos Marmol entered this spring as the Cubs full-time closer for the first time in his career, not having to compete with the likes of Kerry Wood or Kevin Gregg for the job. So far this season Marmol has not disappointed. He has struck out 30 batters in 14 and 2/3 innings. 30 batters! That is a remarkable 18.41 K per 9 IP or more than two per every inning pitched. To put that in perspective, if you take all pitchers to throw at least 50 innings in a season, the record for K’s per 9 IP is 14.98 by Eric Gagne in 2003. That was the season in which Gagne saved 55 games and won the NL Cy Young award. Marmol’s current pace blows that mark out of the water.

Marmol has allowed just one earned run for the entire season and is holding opponents to a batting average of just .173. So what has Marmol done differently this season to put up such numbers? Well for one, his slider has been unhittable. This season batters have swung and missed at his slider 51.5 percent of the time, best in all of baseball. That is up from 34.5 a season ago. Players are chasing his slider out of the zone at 37.1 percent, up from 26.5 from a season ago. And opponents have a well-hit average of just .076 against the slider.

But not to be forgotten is the improvement Marmol has shown when using the fastball and with getting ahead of batters. Last year Marmol got a swing and miss on just 21.1 percent of his fastballs, but this season that is all the way up to 35.9. This season Marmol has thrown a first-pitch strike to 59 percent of the batters he faces, up from 50 percent a season ago.

All told, Carlos Marmol is primed and ready for a breakout season as the Cubs closer, if the Cubs could only get him save opportunities. Because, for all these impressive numbers, Marmol still has only four saves for the season.