This is the first in a series of posts that revive a long-lost, well-loved Red Reporter feature: the Red Report. The writing staff will be giving in-depth profiles on new faces who are at least somewhat likely to see time with the big league team this year.
#46 / Relief Pitcher / Cincinnati Reds
Age: (b. Aug 30, 1982)
Nicknames: None official
Saving Sean Marshall (Setting Up Sean Marshall?), The Once and Former Cub, The Wood Shed, The Amp, The Stack, The Plan
- Sean Marshall was born in Richmond Virginia. His older brother is a former farmhand in the Red Sox organization. Richmond is also the birthplace of Willard Marshall, an outfielder who played for the Reds for two seasons during the 1950s and attended the same high school as Sean. Baseball Reference doesn't list them as relatives, but considering the facts at hand and the genome of the South, they probably are related in some way (I'm allowed to say this because my recent relatives all came from a sticktown in WV) - though Marshall is a pretty common name down there.
- Virginia is also the birthplace of the other lefty shotgun barrel in the Reds' bullpen, Bill Bray, and Mat Latos too. This should help put the pitching staff's chemistry on a fast track.
- After pitching three seasons at Virginia Commonwealth, Marshall was drafted by the Cubs in 2003. He made his professional debut that same year with low-A Boise Hawks. He was teammates in the Cubs' system with Reds' spring training invitee Sean Gallagher. His lifetime minor league line is sterling, with a 2.70 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9
- He was added to the Cubs 40-man roster after the 2005 season and began his major league career as a starter, making 24 starts his rookie year in 2006 - Dusty Baker's last in the Cubs' dugout.
- He converted to relief for good in 2010, after making both starts and relief appearances during ' 08 and '09. He started 2009 in the rotation, but spent most of the season in the bullpen.
- Depending on who you believe, Marshall has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the last two seasons. He's earned 5.0 fWAR as a set-up reliever (with 6 saves), ranking 3rd among all relievers in FanGraphs WAR in 2011.
- Walt Jocketty told reporters that discussion of a possible deal for Marshall with Theo Epstein began in mid-November 2011 at the GM Meetings. On the early press call, Jocketty quipped: "If we can't figure out a guy, we try to acquire him."
- Jocketty also expressed confidence in extending Marshall beyond his contract, which lapses after 2012, but there hasn't been much news to date on that front.
- Marshall has similar splits against lefty and righty batters: .263/.330/.403 vs. RHB and .227/.300/.363 vs. LHB.
- Like 97% of middle-to-upper class males from temperate-to-warm climates aged 25-105, he's an avid golfer and fisherman.
Drafted/Signed: Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 6th round of the 2003 amateur draft and signed June 7, 2003.
Traded: By the Chicago Cubs on December 23, 2011 to the Cincinnati Reds for Ronald Torreyes, Dave Sappelt and Travis Wood
Option years left: One
MLB Service time: 5.088 (Can refuse optional assignment)
Current Contract Status: Would have been eligible for his third year or arbitration, but signed a two-year contract with the Cubs prior to the 2011 season which pays him $3.1M in 2012.
|162 Game Avg.||3.96||11||10||103||112||1.330||8.7||1.0||3.2||7.5|
Entering the 2009 season as a starter, Marshall had four pitches in his repetoir, while trying to develop a fifth for show. Pitch f/x IDs that fifth pitch as a two-seam fastball, which he only threw that season (and only once every 20 pitches). Since entering the bullpen permanently in 2010, Marshall has honed in on three pitches, throwing his curveball 40% of the time and his slider and four-seam fastball in roughly equal measure. His curveball is elite, his slider is above average, while his fastball is fairly pedestrian.
The curveball is a lethal centerpiece to the Marshall Plan of attack. As you can see in the video of him de-fanging his future teammates below, Marshall throws from a release point somewhere near Carlos Pena's head. His breaking pitches take the scenic route across the plate. You can see their devastating effect on cool guys, baseball's best hitters and lefties all in the last scene here:
Marshall has coaxed batters to wiff nearly 17% of the time on his curveball since 2010, a better rate than Felix Hernandez or Cliff Lee over the same period. It's his preferred out pitch, which he's thrown it the majority of the time in 1-2 and 2-2 counts since 2010, though he throws his fastball slightly more often 0-2 counts. He seems also to prefer to throw the curve as soon as he gets ahead.
His fastball velocity has increased a few ticks since he became a fulltime reliever, sitting around 90-91. His slider has good movement but is only separated from his fastball by an average of 5 mph. Still, with the curveball as his high-70s hammer, Madson can mix in the slider further frustrate batters who might be guessing fastball.
Marshall struck out a staggering 29.3% of batters faced in 2010 and 25.7% last season. He hit a career high in groundball rate (57.5%) in 2011, which meant that with his good command, batters were either striking out or hitting it through the infield over 2/3 of the time - which bodes well with an improved defense behind him.
That leaves little room for long fly balls: and indeed, Marshall's HR-rate plummeted to 0.12/9 last season. He's a good candidate to resist to even a virulent strain of GABP (which would look something like this) with a superb fielding independent pitching (FIP) profile and expected-FIP (xFIP) numbers in line with his actual ERA (exactly 2.50 in '10 and '11).