Marcus Stroman’s Absurd Set of Pitch Comps

Some weeks ago, I was tooling around on the Baseball Prospectus PITCHf/x leaderboards, and one thing led to another, and I noticed that Marcus Stroman had developed a sinker that looked and worked an awful lot like Roy Halladay‘s sinker. It was a pitch that just came to Stroman during the course of the 2014 season, and he debuted it early in the second half, and this is the FanGraphs post that resulted. Blue Jays fans derived a modest thrill from seeing Stroman compared to one of the best franchise pitchers ever.

This week, I’ve run some posts calculating certain pitch comps. I’ve developed a method that’s different from the method I used when I compared Stroman and Halladay, and here, you can see, for example, the best comps for Sonny Gray‘s curveball. I thought today I’d put Marcus Stroman under the microscope. Stroman is a genuine six-pitch pitcher, and here’s his second-half breakdown, by usage, according to Brooks Baseball:

  • Sinker: 32%
  • Four-seam: 23%
  • Curve: 16%
  • Cutter: 15%
  • Slider: 8%
  • Changeup: 6%

For each of the six pitches, I calculated the best comps, out of right-handed starting pitchers during the PITCHf/x era, spanning 2008 – 2014. The results are absurd. Marcus Stroman has got some weapons. Consider him excessively armed and absolutely terrifying.

Sinker

stromansinker

  • Top comp: Roy Halladay
  • Comp rating: 0.9

Remember that comp rating is just the sum of three different z-scores. Well, the absolute value of three different z-scores. That sounds complicated, but it’s just a measure of separation between Stroman and another pitcher, by average velocity, horizontal movement, and vertical movement. Unsurprisingly, this method also turned up Halladay’s sinker as the best comp for Stroman’s, and, yeah, Halladay was dominant for years, leaning heavily on two seams. We’ve been over this. Stroman’s sinker is awesome.

Four-seam

stromanfourseam

This comp rating is even closer than the Halladay sinker comp rating. Johnny Cueto is inarguably one of the best starting pitchers in the majors. He could be the best starter available at the deadline this year, depending on what happens with the Reds and depending on what happens with Cole Hamels. Cueto’s four-seamer is also his primary pitch. He throws other pitches often, too, and part of his strategy is mixing things up to remain highly unpredictable, but the four-seamer is a huge part of what makes Cueto an ace. So.

Curve

stromancurve

Stroman’s sinker most compares with that of an erstwhile ace. Stroman’s four-seamer most compares with that of a current ace. And Stroman’s curveball most compares with that of another current ace, a current ace whose breaking ball has its own nickname. Fernandez’s breaking ball is considered one of the better pitches in the game, and Stroman just happens to have his own version of it. Making things all the better: here are the pitchers who have the only three breaking balls that rate particularly close to Stroman’s curve:

I’m pretty sure that’s good company, but then I’m just some guys who literally writes about and analyzes baseball for a living.

Cutter

stromancutter

Okay, so that tailed off quickly. It can’t all be Halladays and Cuetos and Fernandezes. But I’d point to a few things here. One, Beckett polished the cutter later in his career, and he relied on it pretty often. Two, the comp rating isn’t as strong as the comp ratings shown above. And three, the second-closest cutter comp: Johnny Cueto again. That’s just about two Cuetos out of four pitches.

Slider

stromanslider

This is a pitch that, in the second half, Stroman threw about once per 13 deliveries. So roughly once per inning. Cole’s usage rate has been twice that high. Archer’s has been four times as high. For Archer, this is his No. 1 non-fastball weapon, and when Stroman threw his slider, it counted for a strike 70% of the time. Seldom did Stroman leave his slider up in the zone. This was his fifth pitch.

Changeup

stromanchangeup

Let’s just ignore this part. Stroman used his changeup the least. He’s acknowledge that it remains a work in progress. I’m not convinced he even needs it, but as things stand, this is the weak link, and Stroman is aware of it. Neither Drabek nor Billingsley used the changeup much. Nothing else to say in this paragraph. Stroman’s other pitches are great!

=====

So, let’s review. When Stroman figured out his repertoire, he leaned most heavily on his sinker, and that compares best with Roy Halladay’s sinker. His next-most frequent pitch was the four-seamer, and that compares best with Johnny Cueto’s four-seamer. Then a curveball, that most closely compares to breaking balls thrown by Jose Fernandez, Yu Darvish, and Corey Kluber. Stroman also regularly mixed in a cutter that most closely compares to Josh Beckett’s late-career cutter, but right behind Beckett, we find Cueto again. Stroman’s fifth pitch down the stretch was a slider most reminiscent of Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer’s sliders. Finally, Stroman occasionally folded in a changeup we shouldn’t talk about much. Changeups are hard, and for some guys they’re unnecessary.

A close comp rating doesn’t always mean two pitches are close in effectiveness. Pitchers differ in their levels of command, and they differ in their throwing motions and deception. Yet Stroman doesn’t come with a lot of red flags. He’s consistent with his release points. Second-half Stroman had a sub-3 FIP. He had a sub-3 xFIP. He threw better than 65% strikes, and he generated almost 60% grounders. At the heart of all this: an absolutely dream-worthy repertoire. Look at it this way, and you’d think Marcus Stroman is a guy we made up. I can assure you, he’s very much real.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
KyleZ
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

The greatest gift the blue jays ever received was a Mitch Williams fastball.

After that it’s Marcus Stroman

exxrox
Member
exxrox
1 year 3 months ago

hanging slider, no?

Padraic
Guest
Padraic
1 year 3 months ago

Yes, a slider…

KyleZ
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Yeah, you’re right. I just got so excited so fast some confusion struck

This also happens when when I see a Jurassic Park marathon on channel 15

Mark
Guest
Mark
1 year 3 months ago

Slider, fastball. Whatever, this made me laugh pretty hard

Eric
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Eric
1 year 3 months ago

Jeff, please. My maple boner can only get so hard.

witesoxfan
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witesoxfan
1 year 3 months ago

I want to amend my previous statements. Do not do these just in the offseason. Do these literally all of the time.

t ball
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t ball
1 year 3 months ago

Ditto, one or two a week all year would be fun to read.

MaxPower417
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MaxPower417
1 year 3 months ago

Mother of God.

bluejays49
Member
bluejays49
1 year 3 months ago

Good Lord.

Wil
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Wil
1 year 3 months ago

Don’t know why you imply a Josh Beckett comparison is a negative for Stroman, Blue Jays would be ecstatic if Stroman is 75% of the pitcher Beckett was.

Jacob Schutt
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Jacob Schutt
1 year 3 months ago

Stroman is going to win the AL cy young this year.

haishan
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haishan
1 year 3 months ago

I don’t know where you can bet on the CYA, but if I did, I’d probably put a few bucks on him. Between his considerable talent, Russell Martin’s framing and defense, and the Jays maybe putting it all together at last, he’s a strong candidate for a monster year.

(Or he could blow out his elbow in spring training and miss the whole season. Prediction is hard.)

Ad
Guest
Ad
8 months 21 days ago

Not his elbow but his knee. Prediction is hard.

siggian
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siggian
1 year 2 months ago

No, not unless there is a miraculous cure happening.

Kevin
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Kevin
1 year 3 months ago

So you’re betting the under on the ZiPS/Steamer projections?

Jeremy
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Jeremy
1 year 3 months ago

Predicting a guy to beat the projections really shouldn’t be done on a whim, and a fair amount of consideration needs to go into it, but I certainly think Stroman has shown enough improvement with the sinker that him beating the projections is a reasonable thing to predict.

Eric
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Eric
1 year 3 months ago

If he stays healthy, he’ll beat it. Projections take into account injury risk though

Mike Green
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Mike Green
1 year 3 months ago

Stroman’s one vulnerability in the minor leagues was to the home run. It looks like he’s got that licked courtesy of the sinker.

Also, he is throwing to Russell Martin this year. That can’t hurt.

Jeremy Dahlstrom
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Jeremy Dahlstrom
1 year 3 months ago

Exactly, while you can still question to some extent the effects exemplary pitch framing and the like have on a pitcher’s overall success compared to throwing to an *average catcher – throwing to Martin will not hurt.

I’m excited to see what Stro does this year!

Jim
Guest
Jim
1 year 3 months ago

STROSHOW

StroShow
Guest
StroShow
1 year 3 months ago

That’s my name!

Kyle
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Jeff you have ruined me. I was in the process of writing an extremely similar article :(((

Clayton
Member
Clayton
1 year 3 months ago

That’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.

Saul
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Saul
1 year 3 months ago
everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 3 months ago

the weird thing is that the potential of this elite arsenal was evident right out of the draft, and his milb numbers were straight up dominant……but nobody would call him a top prospect. just because he’s short.

Wilson
Guest
Wilson
1 year 3 months ago

Yeah, I’ll be damned if we let something like 100 years of baseball history, which tells us that shorter pitchers have a harder time throwing with a downward plane, change a scouting report based heavily on historical comparisons!

Russell Wilson
Guest
Russell Wilson
1 year 3 months ago

That makes good sense to me.

Drew Brees
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Drew Brees
1 year 3 months ago

Me too.

Tom Brady
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Tom Brady
1 year 3 months ago

I just followed the other guys here. Where are we?

everdiso
Member
everdiso
1 year 3 months ago
Impossibles
Guest
Impossibles
1 year 3 months ago

Outliers exist and are unpredictable.

SolerEclipse
Member
SolerEclipse
1 year 3 months ago

Attention Fangraphs writers, this article officially meets/exceeds necessary information regarding one Marcus Stroman this preseason.

Regards,

The Lord of ADP

StroShow
Guest
StroShow
1 year 3 months ago

There’s no limit. NO LIMIT!

novaether
Member
novaether
1 year 3 months ago

There are other components to pitching than an arsenal. You need control, command, pitch sequencing, pitch framing… oh wait… he’s got all that too this year (thx Russell Martin).

My only hope is to see him do better with runners in scoring position, but you could easily chaulk that up to small sample size.

Oh, and he’s 23.

a
Guest
a
1 year 3 months ago

chaulk

Damn Brits.

b
Guest
b
1 year 3 months ago

*Canadians. Stroman plays for Toronto, silly!

StroShow
Guest
StroShow
1 year 3 months ago

I must say that I loved this article.

Marcus Halleutandez gonna crushinate this year.

Also, he’s such a cool guy too. Have you ever listened to an interview with him? He’s super down to earth and mature sounding, so much so you wonder if he isn’t quoting lines.

Russell Wilson
Guest
Russell Wilson
1 year 3 months ago

He’s another robot, actually.

Crash Davis
Guest
Crash Davis
1 year 3 months ago

That’s because I got him ready for The Show!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTCs0-a7I9g

plasmaj
Member
plasmaj
1 year 3 months ago

his follow-through on his sinker and 4-seamer is a bit funky. His arm bounces back and then seems to half-pitch again. I am no kinesioligist, so will defer to others on riskiness of it. But it looks like a lot of impact.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
1 year 3 months ago

his delivery has generally been billed as pretty clean, and the arm action looks loose and fluid to me.

he’s also something of a gym nut, and so in pretty impeccable shape. his size with his velocity might make him something of an arm injury risk, but then again being kinda small might make knee, ankle, foot, hip injuries less likely.

isasson
Member
1 year 3 months ago

Hey guys, me and two of my close friends have created a baseball podcast where we talk about baseball and are working on interviewing players, please help us out and like comment share subscribe to the videos. Thank you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOA3ROPeyDM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqGv0Cltk3s

TommyLasordid
Member
TommyLasordid
1 year 3 months ago

Just traded Anibel Sanchez and the Panda for Stroman in a fantasy league. Did I do good?

bro
Guest
bro
1 year 3 months ago

Do or do not. There is no ‘good’.

-Dalai Lama

TommyLasordid
Member
TommyLasordid
1 year 3 months ago

i do.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
1 year 3 months ago

i wonder if being short gives his 4-seamer more apparent rise than a taller pitcher

jeff
Guest
jeff
1 year 3 months ago

So you’re saying I should keep him at a $1 salary?

bro
Guest
bro
1 year 3 months ago

I can’t believe it’s not butter…

RichW
Member
RichW
1 year 3 months ago

It spreads as good as…

Zach
Guest
Zach
1 year 3 months ago

Great read but I have some minor misgivings about the change up analysis provided here and elsewhere. You’ve probably thought about this but: I don’t think we can look at the change up in isolation like you can for other pitches. It’s probably why Happ and Felix look so close. It seems to me the more effective gauge may be based on differences with the four seamer – those with better difference scores in velocity, movement etc rather than analyzing raw scores of velocity and movement. It may provide a better comp to Felix and Stroman then (of course assuming similar release points on the two offerings).

Ebenezer
Member
Member
Ebenezer
1 year 3 months ago

This is great! Jeff, it’d be very interesting to see an analysis of this for TIm Lincecum, especially over a few years. As a Giants’ fan, I wonder if this would solve the mystery of why his effectiveness has decreased so far, so fast.

Hog
Guest
Hog
1 year 3 months ago

Wow. Great stuff, but it looks like the some of the videos aren’t assocoated with the right pitch label

The cutter video looks nothing like a cutter, which would cut into a lefty hitter, not away. Looks more like a bad change or a sinker to me…
The slider video looks like a curve, with downer 12 to 6 action. Like sonny gray’s…
The curve video looks mothing like a curve, but instead a cutter…or maybe a slider which can have similar action. I’ll stick w
cutter…

Thoughts? Can you check?

Eric
Guest
Eric
1 year 3 months ago

You’re right about the cutter; it looks like a sinker/two-seam.
Stroman’s slider and curve have pretty similar movement though; his slider has a lot of veritical break and his curve has a lot of horizontal break.

Mark Davidson
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

I’d like to see something about arm slot consistency for his pitches. Is it there? Does he have a MadBum comp for arm slot?

Fap Anson
Member
Member
Fap Anson
1 year 3 months ago

*Drool*

Tony
Guest
Tony
1 year 3 months ago

Stroman had success in 2014 and it is easy to project him to improve simply based on track record. However I am curious to see if there are examples of pitchers that simply didn’t pitch well in 2014. But despite that their scores on pitches finds elite level comps.

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