By now you all know that Ryan Madson will miss the entire 2012 season as he undergoes Tommy John surgery. I think if you asked most Reds fans who the new closer would be, they'd say Sean Marshall.
Marshall came to the Reds this offseason in exchange for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes. Just last month the Reds and Marshall agreed to a three-year deal worth $16.5 million with $1 million in bonuses for games started, and another $1 million for games finished.
Obviously the Reds traded for Marshall with the intent of keeping him as a set-up man, but I believe they extended him with the intent to make him into a closer following this season.
Ideally, they would have wanted Madson to close this season and Marshall the next, but in light of recent events, that's not possible.
The organization shouldn't worry about Marshall though: He'll be great as the Reds closer.
Marshall's been a set-up man now for a little while and, according to former pitcher Mitch Williams, the eighth inning is tougher to pitch than the ninth. (I can't tell you how many times he's said this on the MLB Network.)
In the tougher role, Marshall has been dominant the past two seasons. In 2010, Marshall posted a 2.65 ERA, with a 1.112 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 74.2 innings.
The dominance continued in 2011. Marshall had a 2.26 ERA, with a 1.097 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 75.2 innings.
If he does close, how many saves will Marshall record?
Though these are great numbers, other statistics lead me to believe that Marshall will be a great closer this season.
First, to placate the people who link every Cincinnati pitcher to the home-run-friendly Great American Ball Park, Marshall's had four home runs in the last two seasons.
That's right, four.
Marshall has also only walked 42 batters in the past two seasons and his command is impressive. His BAA in the last two seasons is just .222 and his OBP against is roughly .280.
Furthermore, if what Mitch Williams says is true and the eighth really is tougher than the ninth, then Marshall outperformed Madson last season in a tougher role.
Let's compare how the two did in 2011:
Last season, Marshall posted one stat that I think is most telling of why he will succeed as the Reds closer. In 2011, 29 percent of plate appearances against Marshall started with an 0-2 count. In those 0-2 counts he allowed just four hits.
Marshall possesses the ability to put batters in a hole and finish them off. Reds fans should be relieved by this after the roller coaster ride Francisco Cordero took us on the last four years.
The bottom line is that Marshall is a dominant force on the hill. He produces a great deal of strikeouts in comparison to his innings pitched and he doesn't allow the big fly.
Prediction: Sean Marshall will save 37 games this year for the Cincinnati Reds.