Nothing went right for Evan Marshall on the baseball field in 2015. You’re probably well aware of the horrific accident that nearly cost him his life – a comebacker that struck the right-hander in the head, fracturing his skull and causing brain bleeding that landed him in the ER without a moment’s notice. Marshall has been on the road to recovery since last fall. The fact that the preceding sentence even exists is some kind of miracle. These things rob pitchers of their careers, or in extreme cases, their lives. But Marshall has survived it and bravely undertaken the work to get back onto the mound. Emotionally, it went a little something like this:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 4, 2016
If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, please seek medical help – you may not have a pulse. What this young man has gone through is inspiring, not because he’s an athlete, but because he’s a person. People in all walks of life suffer tremendous adversity and Marshall is simply one of them, but what he’s undergone has been very public. His return to the mound has been very public as well as Dback Nation is clearly rooting for The Marshall.
That rooting isn’t hollow, however. There’s a chance fore Evan Marshall to do more than just emerge from the events of the past – there’s a chance for him to be a meaningful contributor to a ball club with big aspirations. To do so, he’ll have to put more than just his injury behind him. In 2015, Marshall was simply bad on the mound for the Diamondbacks. Despite velocities that held steady, his effectiveness waned and he found himself sent down to AAA Reno after just 13 big league appearances to open the season. His 6.40 ERA in Reno was actually worse than the 6.08 ERA he posted in the minors before tragedy struck and he lost the rest of the season.
His 2014 season, of course, was a very different story. Marshall went from a decent high minors reliever to one of the better middle relief pitchers in all of baseball. As his successes piled up, he pitched more and more critical innings for the then-rebuilding D-backs. In a year when things at the major league level were all but forgettable, you couldn’t forget about the performance of Evan Marshall. The kid simply rose to the occasion time and again, getting the Diamondbacks out of jams for the majority of the season. Then 2015 happened and it all fell apart.
Enter the 2016 Evan Marshall. It’s incredible that he’s on the mound in the first place, but even more incredible that he’s in contention for the remaining spot in the bullpen. While I’d put my money on a second lefty to join Andrew Chafin, manager Chip Hale has stated that he’ll pick the seven best relievers to construct his bullpen, period. I like the sound of that and it’s consistent with what we’ve seen and heard – this is a meritocracy and those who play best in the competitive team climate will find their names on the Opening Day lineup.
Maybe Evan Marshall sees his name there. Probably he doesn’t. There are a lot of pitchers vying for that final spot and handicapping the race is difficult right now. But in four appearances, Marshall has been spot-on. In those four innings of work, he’s walked just one, struck out three and given up two hits. He’s yet to allow an earned run, and although he’s faced some less-than-stellar lineups, he’s done his job as well as anyone else. It’s so far, so good at this point in time.
Even if Marshall doesn’t make the team to open the season, the chances of seeing him at some point are relatively high. If and when that occurs, it’ll be reason to celebrate. Yes, this will be a guy who’s put a tremendous on-field accident behind him, but it’ll also be a guy who’s overcome some lagging performances to regain his footing as a major league pitcher. That’s just cool all the way around. Good luck, Evan.
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FanGraphs Stats Glossary
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BP Base Running Stats
Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).