Jason Marquis Under the Radar

Jason Marquis moved into the rotation full time after arriving in St. Louis. In his first two season there he posted fabulous ERAs of 3.71 and 4.13 but they were both giant smoke screens. His FIPs those two years were 4.55 and 4.95 and his strikeout rate took a very troubling drop to the mid-4 range. tRA, a method of calculating how many runs a pitcher would be expected to allow in front of a neutral defense and park based on his FIP components and batted ball profile says that Marquis benefited from a total of 38 missing runs in 2004 and 2005.

Then 2006 came around and Marquis’ luck diminished and he got notably worse. His 6.02 ERA was only slightly worse than his 5.90 FIP as his strikeout to walk numbers approached parity. His home runs allowed shot up thanks to a whopping nine point drop in his ground ball rate. In fact, his home run per fly ball actually dropped in 2006.

Despite all of that, Jason Marquis signed perhaps the dumbest three-year, $21-million contract ever with the Cubs after the 2006 season. It was unfathomable how dumb that contract was based on past performance. Curiously though, Marquis somehow pitched up to the contract in Chicago. His ground balls returned somewhat and his swinging strike rate which had fallen from from 7.4% to 6.1% to 5.4% while in St. Louis averaged 6.6% in Chicago. He did not turn into a good pitcher by any means, he was still below average, but he did manage to flirt with average, posting FIPs of 4.99 and 4.61.

In total, Marquis was worth $15.1 million in value in Chicago while being paid $13.2 million on his back loaded contract. This winter he was dumped off to Colorado for Luis Vizcaino in a salary move. All Marquis has done is get even better in Coors, now solidly above average with a FIP of 4.28 and enough innings to be worth $6.1 in value, bringing his three-year total already to $21.2 million, a net positive.

Marquis has thus far maintained his results on getting hitters to swing on pitches outside the zone more often that he flashed last year for the first time and he has paired his slightly improved strikeout to walk rate with a return in force of his ground ball ratio leading to another drop in home runs allowed. Marquis’ results this year have been legitimate, the question will be if he can maintain them and then what if, being just 31 at the end of the year, what kind of contract he might find himself worth this winter.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

10 Responses to “Jason Marquis Under the Radar”

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  1. WY says:

    It can’t have been the “dumbest contract ever” if the value of his performance has exceeded the value he’s been paid over these last three years, even if it did look very bad when he signed it.

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  2. Check his home/road splits before we talk about how he’s better in Coors. I’d love to see his xFIP on the season.

    I was impressed with his start tonight in Coors. Do we extend him? Probably not safe, but interesting anyhow.

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    • puck says:

      With other pitchers in the system (e.g., Morales and the Tulsa guys), and the Rockies’ likely budget, I don’t think signing Marquis is much of an option. Er, well, I’m assuming that someone will be interested in signing him to a multi year deal with an AAV at least as much as his current deal.

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  3. Hailmatty says:

    “fabulous ERAs of 3.71 and 4.13″

    Fabulous, darling! Fabulous!

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  4. Brian says:

    Just because a player turns things around to justify his newfound contract, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bad signing. Obviously it was, and he could have easily continued with his history of poor performance. Just because the results have now justified the contract doesn’t mean the contract was a smart move.

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    • JCP says:

      I think the proof is in the pudding – it’s real easy for us to look at K rates, GB rates, etc and see that the contract was ‘bad’. But we’d be saying the same thing about Gil Meche, and in the case of Meche, for certain, we’d be wrong. Clearly the Royals recognized something that they wanted to pay 11M$ for, and that contract was panned as one of the worst in the last 10 years. Now it looks like one of the best.

      One of the things I always try to remember (yes, even with Omar Minaya and Bill Bavasi) is that GMs have access to more information than we do. Perhaps we are not giving Jim Hendry (I think it was he who signed Marquis) enough credit here, and by simply saying he got lucky we may be ignoring what may be some rather interesting and brilliant insights on the part of Hendry and his staff. If it were all about xFIP, sh*t, I, and I assume most people on this blog, would have no trouble running a Major League team.

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    • WY says:

      “Just because the results have now justified the contract doesn’t mean the contract was a smart move.”

      True, but it’s also not fair to call it the “dumbest contract ever,” especially coming in the same off-season as a bunch of other dubious signings (Pierre, Matthews, etc.). As a Cardinals fan who suffered through his horrendous 2006 season, I myself thought it was a very bad signing at the time, but hyperbole is hyperbole. He’s no Cy Young, but 2006 is looking more like an aberration (and it was indeed a gruesome one) than the sign of an irrevocable downward plunge.

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  5. John says:

    With all the injuries the Cubs had with Wood and Prior, they needed someone to reliably put up innings. Marquis was really their 5th starter, and a 5th starter that goes .500 and gives you 200+ innings is pretty good. They paid him more like a 3-4 starter, but if that’s what they had to do, it was probably worth it. Marquis was much maligned, but he pitched regularly and generally kept them in games.

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  6. Alireza says:

    Since when is a pretty good 3.71 and an average/below average 4.13 a “fabulous” ERA?

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