- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

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.