The Unsung Blue Jay

Entering the season the Blue Jays felt that, with even a little run support, their starting pitching could do wonders to help propel them to victory. Roy Halladay has been a top-tier pitcher for a while now, even garnering compliments from President Bush; AJ Burnett is a flamethrower who has steadily produced over the last few years; and young Dustin McGowan looks poised to build on the success he experienced last year.

While most teams would kill to have three #1 or #2 starters at the front of their rotation, the Blue Jays actually have a fourth guy that, early into this season, has arguably contributed more to his team than all but two starting pitchers in the entire sport.

Shaun Marcum ranks third in WPA amongst all starting pitchers at 1.86, and has allowed just 30 hits in 56.2 innings of work.

Since becoming a starter in early May of last year, Marcum has posted the following numbers:

2007: 25 GS, 11-4, 142.2 IP, 43 BB, 100 K, 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
2008: 8 GS, 4-2, 56.2 IP, 16 BB, 49 K, 2.22 ERA, 0.81 WHIP

When put together it looks like a very solid, Cy Young Award contending full season:

33 GS, 15-6, 199.1 IP, 59 BB, 149 K, 3.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

Marcum is holding opponents to a .151/.217/.281 slash line and has left 80% of runners on base. His BABIP of .184 has been better than his .266 xBABIP, so this slash line is not very likely to keep up but he has definitely made his mark as a top-of-the-line #4 starter; especially considering there are some teams on which he would be a #2 starter.

An interesting note about Marcum’s success is his lack of fastball usage. Of non-Tim Wakefield starters, only four pitchers use their fastball less often; he throws it just 38% of the time. In fact, rotation-mates Jesse Litsch and Halladay come in at #2 and #9 in that same category.

Perhaps this vast repertoire of pitch selection and frequency helps provide the Blue Jays with one of the top rotations in the game. Either way, Marcum should not be overlooked as an up and coming and effective starter, regardless of how well his rotation-mates perform.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

13 Responses to “The Unsung Blue Jay”

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  1. Tom Au says:

    Here’s a team (like the 2007 Oakland A’s) that has great pitching, and a lousy record–because they have no hitting.

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  2. Eric Seidman says:

    Yeah, though the A’s had the excuse of injuries. I don’t consider poor hitting to be an excuse. Watching them last night against the Phillies they just looked lost at the plate.

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  3. dan says:

    This is unrelated to the post, but somewhat relevant otherwise…. The new look appears empty to me, compared to the old one. And it might be due to my screen, but the game graphs on the right are cut off for the 8th and 9th innings until i scroll over.

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  4. Dan: I appreciate the feedback. I’m not sure why the graphs would be cut off for the 8th and 9th innings until you scroll over them? I’m not seeing that on my end.

    I’d like to put something next to the “recent” stories, like player of the day or something like that. Is that what you mean by it looks “empty” in that there’s some blank space between the recent stories & the game graphs?

    You might try hitting F5 a few times to see if anything changes? Sometimes the css file doesn’t update.

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  5. dan says:

    Yea the “empty” thing you have right…. It seems like something else should be there besides just recent posts–player of the day is a good idea if you wanted to get away from the “top 5″ lists you used to show.

    And what I meant by the graphs being cut off is that the size of your page as it appears is about a half-inch too wide for my screen, so until I scrolled my page to the right, I could only see innings 1-7. But that appears to be fixed now, as I can see the entire box for every game listed.

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  6. What I might end up doing is going back to a format similar to before, but just have the one graph on the main page be a graph from a game in progress, but just a static view.

    One of my main goals is to make sure people know we have live win probability data, but having them all of them in the sidebar might be a bit overkill.

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  7. Come to think of it, maybe the sidebar (or just one of the graphs) would make a really nice widget for other blogs.

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  8. Eric Seidman says:

    And the Fangraphs jinx continues as I say the Blue Jays look lost at the plate and Rod Barajas hits a grand slam.

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  9. Andrew says:

    History repeats itself constantly… Marcum is looking more and more like Dave Stieb with every start. The Jays look too much like the ’82 and ’83 Jays. Hopefully we’re at the start of the Second Golden Age and pitchers like Marcum, McGowan, and Litsch turn out like Stieb, Guzman, and Clancy.

    At least the offense is looking less and less inept at the plate with every passing game.

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  10. Eric Seidman says:

    Howard took him deep in the first inning though this game is delayed.

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  11. Evan says:

    Marcum also throws a more diverse selection of pitches than other pitchers (possibly than any other pitchers – I haven’t checked that closely). He throws 5 different pitches at least 10% of the time. I can’t find another pitcher who does this.

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  12. Eric Seidman says:

    Evan, I checked the Fangraphs data and found the following guys with ~10% in five different pitches:

    Andy Sonnanstine: 36% FB, 19% SL, 27% CT, 10% CB, 7% CH
    Adam Eaton: 55% FB, 13% SL, 11% CT, 13% CB, 9% CH

    Bronson Arroyo and Kenny Rogers are close, too.

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  13. Evan says:

    Jesse Litsch has now also joined that group.

    17.7% FB 22.2% SL 37.4% CT 13.4% CB 9.2% CH

    Perhaps someone in Toronto is coaching players to do this. Whatever it is, it’s working.

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