Jun 9, 2012; Marshall's last bad outing. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

Sean Marshall Better as Setup Guy?


The other day I looked at Aroldis Chapman and how it appears that he’s more on the human side than we thought. Something has been ringing in my head since I wrote that. What about Sean Marshall? How has he performed since Dusty made “the move”?

Again, we’ll use May 19th and May 20th as our dates here. Here’s what I discovered…and you shouldn’t be all that surprised at the results.

Between the start of the season and May 19th, Marshall served as the team’s closer. No strings attached except the team would watch the number of consecutive days in which he would work. After his performance on that day of May 19th, which wasn’t a good one to say the least (0.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R), the decision (I despise that phrase now) was made to remove Marshall from the closer’s role and insert Aroldis Chapman in the role…with stipulations To me, it was a move of panic. Sure, Marshall hadn’t “performed” as well as we would have liked, but even though some numbers looked poor, he was doing well as the closer.

The basic premise is that a finesse pitcher cannot be a closer and a power arm is needed to fulfill the role. Not sure I agree with that general notion, but it is what it is…for now.

Maybe these outings like the one on May 19 made Dusty go through more toothpicks…

Anyway, here’s the pitch selection of Marshall between the beginning of the 2012 season and his last “day” as the closer, May 19th.

PITCH # % USE VELOCITY STR % SW % WHIFF % FOUL % IN PLAY
Curve 107 39.8% 76.6 79.8% 54.1% 19.3% 20.2% 14.7%
Slider 86 31.4% 85.1 68.6% 39.3% 7.0% 17.4% 15.1%
Fastball 44 16.1% 90.6 56.8% 50.0% 13.6% 22.7% 13.6%
Two-seam 35 12.8% 90.6 57.1% 42.9% 11.4% 8.6% 22.9%
TOT/AVG* 272   83.35 69.6% 47.3% 13.5% 18.2% 15.7%

In addition, Marshall pitching line from this time frame was this:
16 G, 14.1 IP, 1-2, 7 SV, 1 BS, 5.02 ERA, 21 SO, 3 BB, 1.745 WHIP
slash against: .344/.373/.500, .488 BABIP

Also worth noting is the Reds record in these 17 games: 14-3.

Now, here’s Marshall numbers since his “demotion”:

PITCH # % USE VELOCITY STR % SW % WHIFF % FOUL % IN PLAY
Curve 71 35.3% 76.9 73.2% 52.1% 11.3% 21.1% 19.7%
Slider 67 33.3% 84.6 68.7% 44.8% 14.9% 9.0% 20.9%
Fastball 28 13.9% 90.6 64.3% 50.0% 21.4% 25.0% 3.6%
Two-seam 34 16.9% 90.9 76.5% 58.8% 17.6% 23.5% 17.6%
Change 1 0.5% 86.8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
TOT/AVG* 201   83.79 70.7% 50.2% 14.9% 17.9% 17.4%

Pitching line from May 20th to last night’s game:
17 G, 14.1 IP, 0-1, 2 SV, 0.63 ERA, 15 SO, 3 BB, 0.628 WHIP
slash against: .120/.185/.140, .171 BABIP

This is interesting. The Reds record in these 17 games…9-8.

The loss Marshall absorbed was against the Tigers when Prince Fielder bit him in the top of the 8th. That’s the only poor outing Marshall has had since moving to his “familiar” role of setup man. And he has thrived, but the team hasn’t as much as it did when Marshall was putting up “bad looking” stats even thought the Reds were winning when he pitched.

How do you explain this apparent anomaly?

First things first here. Unlike Chapman and his obvious dependency on his fast ball, Marshall has not deviated as much from his pitch selection. If anything, Marshall has increased his use of the fastball…and it appears to be working in his favor even though the usage is only slightly higher. Marshall’s use of his curve has surprisingly decreased considering it is thought to be his best pitch. And that may have been the issue. Hitters were sitting on it knowing it was his bread and butter pitch.

And look here. Hitters are swinging at more pitches and the whiff rate has increased, too. Yes, the ball in play rate is higher, but the biggest difference is in the BABIP. It’s over 300 points lower. And that can trigger an “discussion” of one subject: luck.

I try my hardest not to fall into a trap on this matter. I will not doubt that luck can (and does) provide a component in the game of baseball. I don’t think anyone can deny that. To pinpoint a number on it is, in my opinion, not possible. It is variable on each and every play, each and every pitch.

So, back to Marshall’s BABIP. Some suggest that Marshall’s luck has changed for the better. Agreed, but if you state that is the only reason Marshall has pitched better since moving to the role of setup, you’re doing Marshall a disservice. When does skill come into play?

See what I started…

As I noted in the Chapman post, I don’t think the Reds should make a move and go back to Marshall in the closer’s role. Honestly, he should have never been taken out of it.

Now, your thoughts…

Who should be the Reds closer?

  • Aroldis Chapman (33%, 22 Votes)
  • Sean Marshall (50%, 33 Votes)
  • Neither (17%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 66

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