To commemorate Carlos Marmol’s 100th strikeout this season, I’ve decided to highlight one of the few bright spots amid an awful season for the franchise.

Marmol, in his first full season as the team’s closer, has certainly showed why he should be among the game’s elite relievers.

Carlos Marmol’s 2010 campaign will be highlighted as a massive step forward in his career, as he eclipsed both the aforementioned 100 strikeout mark as well as the two WAR mark for the first time in his young career.

By far, the most frustrating aspect about Marmol’s game has been his inability to limit free passes. His BB/9 stood at 7.91 last season, the worst mark for a Major League reliever, and the primary reason his WHIP stood at an obnoxious 1.46. This season, he is limiting his walk rate to 5.82 BB/9—still among the worst in the majors, but obviously a vast improvement.

Marmol has always been the unhittable type, with a .182 career batting average against (BAA), and last season he had a .171 BAA. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last season (.262) suggested that would regress to the norm a bit, so a slight rise in hits would be expected in the 2010 campaign.

Well, it has risen: .003 points, although his BABIP hasn’t stabilized—it skyrocketed to .360, suggesting hitters are getting lucky with a .174 BAA.

This year, Marmol is leading all Major League relievers with contact percentage, or rather non-contact percentage. His 60.6 percent contact rate is far below the 80.9 percent league average. To counter Marmol’s talents for missing bats, hitters are simply not swinging at his offerings, hoping to simply draw a walk.

That is how nastily Marmol is pitching this year; hitters are coming up to the plate with the intention of just watching him pitch, because they have no hope of getting a hit off him, or making any contact off him for that matter.

Carlos Marmol is dealing this year.

So what’s the change this year? For one, Marmol is getting ahead of batters. His career first strike percentage sits at a below average 53.5 percent, but this year he is throwing strike one 62.1 percent of the time, slightly above average. This has allowed Marmol to keep hitters off balance even more with his slider, which he throws 58.4 percent of the time. All of this leads up to a career-high 16.17 K/9 rate, the best in the majors by far.

Marmol has found a new secret to success, although it’s not really a secret to the rest of us: Miss bats, limit walks, and keep the ball on the ground, which he’s doing a bit better (career-high 38.5 ground ball percentage).

Carlos Marmol has established himself as a premier closer, which the Cubs have been searching dearly for for years now. Marmol looks to have gotten on the right track with some of his issues, particularly with walks. However, it remains to be seen if he can improve on this or if he’ll simply regress to his career norm.

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