Now that it appears the Cubs will sign Kerry Wood before Friday’s Cubs Convention, I’ll repeat what I’ve said many times before: it’s time to put Wood back where he belongs–in the closer’s role.
Although dominating at times, Carlos Marmol regularly struggled last season to find his command.
His bouts of wildness resulted in nine hit batsmen and a league-high 10 blown saves–figures which only reaffirmed my belief Marmol is a better set-up man than a closer–and put the Cubs on red alert for its closer’s position heading into the offseason.
I’ve often thought removing Marmol from the high pressure duty of recording the game’s final outs would return him to his peak performance years as the NL’s most menacing set-up arm.
Such was the case in 2008 when Marmol posted a 2.68 ERA while striking out a whopping 114 batters in just 87.1 innings–paving the way for Kerry Wood’s 34 save season and a Cubs Central Division crown.
That’s not to say Marmol hasn’t been a respectable closer since absorbing the role from Kevin Gregg during the 2009 campaign. He successfully closed 15 games that year, then 38 the following season.
However, Marmol’s inconsistencies, in combination with Sean Marshall’s departure, leaves the door open for a smooth transition back to an eighth inning-type set-up role in front of Wood.
It most likely wouldn’t be received as a welcomed move for Marmol, who’s grown fawn of closing games. But that’s not to say he’d be entirely without opportunities to close given Wood’s limited availability and history of blister problems.
Most importantly, transitioning Marmol to the eighth allows Dale Sveum the advantage of removing Marmol, should he falter with pitch command, before all is lost.
The inability to make such a move consistently cost the Cubs wins in 2011, and ultimately contributed to Mike Quade losing his job.
That doesn’t have to be the case this season–not with Marmol setting up Wood to close the door.