Originally written on World Series Dreaming  |  Last updated 10/30/14
Chicago-cubs-relief
Tonight’s (well, yesterday’s, now) game was pretty terrible.  The Cubs did not win.  They were going to win at one point, but then weird stuff happened and somehow Carlos Marmol got most of the blame.  Of course, that is fair given the win expectancy chart.  Marmol’s wildness and giving up that monstrous grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt (who is very very strong and was pretty pissed off after getting owned by Jeff Samardzija all night) meant that he earned -.467 WPA.  That’s the worst swing for any pitcher on the night. I would argue that Marmol doesn’t deserve all the boos or the name-calling, but it’s certainly frustrating and he would be released were it not for his massive contract (thanks, Jim Hendry!) or his veteran privileges preventing him from being sent to the minors without permission.  We at WSD have been trying to figure it out for a while, but at some point between the July 31 trade deadline and when his contract ends this offseason, you, the Cubs fan, will likely never have to deal with Marmol again.  But until then, he stays, and those are only a couple of reasons why. Let’s go back to the win expectancy chart.  Guess who was the second-worst offender of negative WPA?  It was none other than the most solid reliever in the Cubs bullpen, James Russell, at -.443 because he decided to walk the bases loaded (after Jeff Samardzija also had issues when he started the seventh frame) and then gave up a bases-clearing double to actually put the Cubs BEHIND in the game.  You mean even good relievers can mess up?  Wow.  I wouldn’t have believed it either, but Mariano Rivera did blow a save without getting an out for the first time in his career…against the Mets.  Strange things happen in baseball. There was also the problem with the Cubs forgetting how to score or even get on base for five innings. So let’s say you don’t want Carlos Marmol in the eighth.  Who are you going to go to?  And James Russell already blew the save. Well…you could have kept Carlos Villanueva in, but can you guarantee that he won’t blow the save?  Considering how his last couple starts went before his demotion to the bullpen… Blake Parker had a decent appearance after being called up and after Marmol crapped the bed.  Can you guarantee that this guy won’t blow the save?  Ehhhhhhh… Shawn Camp and Kyuji Fujikawa are broken.  One of them is absolutely terrible and the other one is only terrible by circumstance (we hope).  Neither were available anyway.  Ditto Rafael Dolis, because the Cubs can’t keep their pitchers healthy for some stupid reason that we’ll explore another day. Hector Rondon?  Probably not.  He likes giving up big hits. How about Kevin Gregg?  Assuming he didn’t blow the save (you remember that Kevin Gregg, right?) then he’s either going to have to toss multiple innings, or else you’d need somebody else to close out the game in the ninth.  Is that what you really want? Oh yeah, then we have Zach Putnam.  Except for the part where…well, check the box score, he did a pretty good Marmol impression except with a bunch of base hits instead of wildness. So Jamie Quirk may have erred in leaving Jeff Samardzija in for too long.  Maybe he should have used Carlos Villanueva more.  But really, what were the Cubs’ options?  Answer: there are none.  Of course you’d probably want Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and everyone else fired including Dale Sveum, except Dale was ejected early on because the umpires were incompetent.  Also, when rebuilding a team (that’s the Cubs’ short term plan), the bullpen is the last thing you deal with.  On paper the bullpen should have been okay, but naturally the game isn’t played on paper.  With bullpen volatility being what it is, crazy nights like this are expected.  But firing the entire front office because one guy with a massive contract sucked after another guy who you were more prone to trust sucked too after the offense also sucked is just you being angry and not thinking rationally. Incidentally, if you’re still hell bent on blaming Marmol for everything, check out his game logs for the previous six or so appearances and think about letting your confirmation bias take a vacation here and there.  He’s not the best reliever in the world anymore (nor was he ever, really) but he really wasn’t as terrible as everyone is letting on.  In a world where even the great Mariano Rivera and super relievers like Craig Kimbrel can have a bad day, you’ve got to be able to put things in perspective. This isn’t to say that we want to keep Carlos Marmol on the Cubs.  We don’t.  But there’s plenty of blame to be spread around and you have to be able to step back and look at it from a more objective lens.
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