Bears

Cubs think Carlos Marmol can get his swagger back

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Cubs think Carlos Marmol can get his swagger back

The expectations around Carlos Marmol are much more modest now. The Cubs closer still has 20 million guaranteed, and its his job to lose (again).

An All-Star setup guy in 2008, Marmol notched 38 saves in 2010 and finished with 138 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. That 15.99 rate per nine innings pitched is the second-highest mark for a reliever in major-league history.

But manager Dale Sveum will simply settle for Marmol throwing a fastball for strike one.

The Cubs reinstalled Marmol as closer and watched him escape a bases-loaded jam during Fridays 3-0 win over the Boston Red Sox. The 40,000-plus at Wrigley Field stood up and watched Marmol earn his first save since May 2.

The hope is that Marmol who has caused so much cover-your-eyes anxiety among Cubs fans can stabilize the bullpen.

It's huge, Sveum said Saturday. Youve got a guy who has obviously done it before. Just get him on track to be able to throw strikes. Thats all you want. I don't care if anybody goes out there and throws strikes and blows a save.

Thats part of the game sometimes. (Its) just staying away from the blown saves because of walks and breakdowns like that.

Marmol is owed almost 4.2 million through the rest of this season, plus 9.8 million in 2013, and the Cubs wouldnt mind showcasing him in high-leverage situations again.

Marmol has been listening to the coaching staff and evolving beyond the slider, throwing his fastball 51.5 percent of the time, up from 36 percent last season, according to FanGraphs.com. The online database also indicates his fastball is back up to an average of 93.4 mph.

Its not just the velocity. Sveum thinks Marmol is finally starting to get his swagger back.

That was the first time I thought he came to the mound with that look, that attitude that you want in a closer, Sveum said. He (was) like, Lets go, game on, I dont care about the past. You could see the emotion. There was a conviction he was throwing the baseball with (and) thats where we want (him to be).

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

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USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

After getting a look at each point guard in the starting lineup this preseason, Jim Boylen finally got a look at what appears to be his starting lineup for Opening Night. 

Tomas Satoransky started as the point next to Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. That group was down 10-7 when Carter subbed out at the 8:36 mark but looked better in later stints in the game. 

Carter was noticeably slow on his first step on his defense, specifically on plays where Raptors center Chris Boucher was able to use his speed and length advantage to finish at the rim. But he was solid on the glass, even chipping in on the offensive rebounding side of things, grabbing 3 offensive boards in the first half alone. 

Carter was clearly re-adjusting to the speed of NBA basketball and as play-by-play broadcaster Stacey King noted during the game, he "just doesn't have his legs underneath him." He was 1-6 from the floor, struggling to get lift as he went up for putback layups around the basket. 

That being said, he was decent, more so on the defensive side of the floor where he became more active as the game wore on.

In his 16-minutes stint, Carter posted 10 points, 7 rebounds, an assist and a block, while picking up 3 personal fouls. 

Outside of Carter's return stint, the Bulls new-look starting group looked solid and offers hope as we approach the start of the NBA regular season.