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Friday, September 25

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Cubs Fri Apr 20 2012

Cubs' Troubles Extend To Closer

Cubs_200.pngA shaky closer has the potential of affecting everybody on the team. A starter might try to pitch to contact in an attempt to last longer. A hitter might feel pressured to hit a home run with two guys on in a tie game. The list goes on.

Cubs closer Carlos Marmol has morphed into 'that guy.'

50-ish walks a season has always been a part of his game, but when you're punching out nearly two guys an inning (like he did in 2010) or have a K/BB ratio of 2.5/1 (2010, 2008, 2007) you can give a hitter a pass here in there. But without control of a second pitch (fastball), hitters are allowed to sit on his world-renowned slider. They play it like a knuckleball: If it's high let it fly, if it's low let it go.

Marmol has gone from a guy hitters loathed facing (and looked silly doing it much of the time), to a point where opposing teams relish the chance at trailing by a run or two going into the ninth so they can take advantage of a guy that can only throw one pitch over the dish. He's had just one clean (no hits or walks) outing in his six appearances thus far.

Jed Hoyer hoped before the season that a hot start from Marmol could lead to some trade talk. He's certainly not far removed from dominance (just two seasons ago), and when he's on, there's few better. Preseason playoff hopefuls like the Red Sox (Andrew Bailey) and Giants (Brian Wilson) both lost their finishers long term, and might've offered the Cubs an opportunity to unload Marmol's contract. I'm guessing the phone didn't ring much at the corner of Clark and Addison in the last week though.

Few internal solutions are available either. Cubs mascot Kerry Wood hit the DL this morning with shoulder fatigue after needing a cortisone shot earlier in the week. He's got the stuff to pitch, but also suffers from Only-Can-Throw-One-Pitch-For-Strikes Syndrome, and straight fastballs at 94 have a tendency to get hit hard in the opposite direction.

The only other potential closer on the 25-man roster is youngster Rafael Dolis, but five walks and a single strikeout in six innings of work doesn't look good on his résumé. And the farm system is short on relief talent based on Scott Maine's recall to take Wood's spot. He was beat up for 10.29 ERA in seven innings of work last season.

For a young team struggling for wins, having a closer to rely on is even more important. The Cubs simply don't have one.

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