Cincinnati Reds in Review: RP Sean Marshall

Long before he was tossing up curveballs in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, Sean Marshall was a villain.

Not in the sense that he did anything particularly villainous, but rather, he was a member of the Chicago Cubs bullpen and the Redlegs could not touch him. So, in off-season before the 2012 season, the Reds went with the old byline of, “If you can’t beat him, buy him.”

Sean Marshall – Relief Pitcher

Let’s get one thing straight: once he switched to the bullpen full-time, Sean Marshall was one of the best relievers in baseball. Once he made the transition in 2010, his ERA numbers read as so: 2.65, 2.26, 2.51 and 1.74. The decision to not only extend his contract, but also acquire him in the first place has been under heavy scrutiny due to his injuries. Marshall is due six and a half million dollars in 2015.

Shoulder injuries are a funny thing. If this were 1914, not 2014, Marshall would just kind of oddly disappear into the wind and potentially never be heard from again. The Reds also wouldn’t be on the hook for his contract.

When they swapped Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes for Marshall, some thought it was outlandish to acquire a left-handed reliever who was a failed starter. After all, Wood and Sappelt had been players on the 2011 team who appeared to have a bright future.

While Wood would go on to make the 2013 National League All-Star team, his career took a sharp downward turn this past year with his ERA finishing up over five. In 2014, Sappelt played in the Mexican League and did not appear in the Majors. As for Torreyes, he played all of last season with the Houston Astros Triple-A franchise in Oklahoma City, so that’s as highly as the Cubs thought of him.

The fact of the matter remains; acquiring Marshall was a sound baseball decision. Just because it hasn’t worked out doesn’t mean it was a bad idea at the time. Marshall may have tossed just 14 innings in 2014, but expect him to at least make an appearance in 2015 to show what he has left in the tank.

Marshall’s Stat Line:

0-0, 7.71 ERA, 15 G, 14 IP, 12 BB, 14 K, 2.50 WHIP, .354 OAV

Top Sean Marshall Moment:

For a pitcher who allowed a run in more than half of his appearances on the season, it was difficult to find a silver lining. But for Marshall, on May 7 he pitched in Fenway Park, one of the most hallowed grounds in the entire nation.

The Reds were trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth when Marshall sauntered out of the ‘pen with the bases loaded and just one man out. He would face Mike Carp and Dustin Pedroia in back-to-back at-bats and strike them both out. Two batters, nine pitches, two strikeouts, a run didn’t cross on his watch. It was as if for the first time in a long time, Marshall did what he came to Cincinnati to do.

Low-Point of the Season for Sean Marshall:

Marshall looked hurt; it was painfully obvious. The biggest test a relief pitcher coming off shoulder trouble has is pitching on back-to-back days. After tossing a scoreless inning at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 9, Marshall went back out to the hill on June 10 for the second straight day for the first, and only, time all season long.

He would post another scoreless inning, but it would his last appearance on a mound in 2014. The shoulder was done—again.

Final Grade: F

When healthy, Marshall can still toss up curveballs and sliders just as well as any pitcher in baseball. Quite simply, he was not the same pitcher in 2014. He struggled with his control (walking nearly a batter per inning) and battled himself right to the end.

One way or the other, Marshall will be around 2015. If the Redlegs can get his arm back in the bullpen to match it with the power of Jumbo Diaz and Aroldis Chapman, they may be on their way back to making in a strong focal point of the club.