With Ryan Madson sadly joining Joakim Soria and Arodys Vizcaino in the Tommy John queue, the Reds figure to name fellow offseason pickup Sean Marshall as the club's closer. While Madson may end up costing Cincy $8.5 million without throwing a pitch ($6 million in 2011, plus a $2.5 million buyout on an $11 million option in 2012) and his loss shifts innings from one of the best in the game to lesser bullpen lights, Marshall is plenty capable of handling high-leverage work. And for that, he can credit his knockout curveball.
Marshall's curveball has limited hitters to a .235 slugging percentage in the two seasons since he was shifted to the 'pen full time, about 60 points below the big league average for relievers. Here's more trivia on the lefty's big-breaking yakker.
- A hanging curveball from Marshall is as rare a sight as Dusty Baker sans toothpick. Take a look at his pitch location with the curve in 2010-11:
Marshall threw just 11% of his curveballs high in the strike zone in 2010-11, well below the 18% average for relievers. With him keeping the ball down so well, it's no surprise that Marshall has racked up a 55% ground ball rate with the curve.
- Marshall has used his curveball about 40% of the time over the past two years, the second-highest rate among relievers:
- His curve isn't reserved just for pitcher's counts, either. Marshall threw a first-pitch curveball 36% of the time in 2010-11, the highest clip among all relievers. As is the case with most first-pitch breakers, hitters didn't offer at many of Marshall's curves (13% swing rate on first-pitch curves, 15% average for relievers).
- Marshall's curve gets much more sweeping action and downward movement than most from lefties. On average, the pitch breaks away from lefty hitters nine inches compared to a pitch thrown without spin, and drops 6.5 inches. The averages for lefty curveballs are 4.3 inches for horizontal break, and 5.3 inches for downward break.
- While Marshall's curve averages 77 mph overall, he varies the speed on the pitch from 73 to 83 mph. He sits in two ranges: 73-76 mph (28% of his curves overall) and 77-80 mph (71%). The slower curves are more effective, holding hitters to a .125 slugging percentage.