Props to reader mlp who properly pointed out that us scribes should have made more of Carlos Marmol's relief appearances in last night's 7-2 Cubs victory over the Astros. The reader is right. All Marmol did last night was come into the game in the eighth inning with nobody out and two Astros on base. The score at the time was 5-2 Cubs, and guess who was coming up for Houston? Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. The result: popout, strikeout, groundout. Aramis Ramirez hits a 2-run homer in the ninth. Cubs win.
Now about Marmol. It says here he's the best relief pitcher in baseball. Bar none.
Marmol's fastball is good and his slider is a candidate to be banned in several states.
But let's look at the numbers. Marmol is 1-1 with a 1.55 ERA. In 29 innings pitched, he has given up 12 hits while walking seven and striking out 41. That translates to a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of a microscopic 0.66. The league leader in WHIP among starting pitchers is Arizona's Dan Haren at 0.96, so Marmol is WHIPing him good. Haren's teammate, Brandon Webb, leads the NL in on-base percentage allowed at .252. Marmol's OBP allowed is .200. Marmol is first among relievers with a .125 opponents batting average.
Marmol is tied for second in holds, and he trails only Billy Wagner in runners per nine innings at 6.5. Wagner is at 6.4.
What Marmol also is doing is showing that the role of the setup man is becoming just as important as that of the closer, maybe more so. If Marmol doesn't hold leads, Kerry Wood doesn't get saves.
The only thing the Cubs will have to watch with Marmol is using him too much. Last night's game was Marmol's third in three days, so look for manager Lou Piniella to give Marmol a break tonight.
When you've got the best in baseball, you have to take care of him.