The New York Mets have finally signed a major league free-agent this winter. Shaun Marcum will head to New York on a one-year deal, pending a physical. The 31-year-old pitcher has been effective throughout his career, with a 3.76 career ERA. Even though he missed a significant amount of last season with an injury, it was surprising to see a pitcher of his caliber receive little interest on the market. At the same time, Marcum wasn’t at his best last season, tossing just 124 innings with a 105 FIP-, his highest since 2008. If Marcum can stay healthy, he could be in for a resurgent season.
Miller Park had not been kind to Marcum over the past two seasons. He was significantly better pitching on the road, with a 2.21 road ERA in 2011, and a 3.26 road ERA in 2012. Milwaukee’s home park isn’t typically thought of as an extreme hitters park, but it was a launching pad last season.
|Park Factor||Miller Park||Citi Field|
|1B||102, 96||104, 94|
|2/3B||96, 116||91, 86|
|HR||142, 130||93, 93|
The home run numbers are pretty significant, as Marcum has been prone to the long-ball at times during his career. Since the Blue Jays are known for having a power-friendly park, this is the first time in Marcum’s career that he’ll play in a park that favors pitching. Even after the team brought the fences in, the park remained friendly to pitching.
A smaller home run factor is significant for Marcum, as his style of pitching is conducive to homers. With an average fastball velocity of 86.3 mph, Marcum has one of the slowest fastball among starters. If he’s not perfect with the pitch, it can get crushed. Over his career, Marcum has given up 30 home runs on his fastball, according to Brooks Baseball. It also doesn’t help that Marcum is a fly ball pitcher. Over the last three seasons, Marcum’s ground ball rate has been under 40%. Neither of these things are going to change going forward, so being in a better park should help.
The bigger question is whether Marcum can stay healthy enough to be a worthwhile fantasy asset. Marcum missed two months with tightness in his elbow. He could have really boosted his stock had he returned and performed well, but that didn’t happen. In the final month of the season, Marcum had a 4.68 ERA and a 4.58 FIP. His strikeout rate also dropped to just 16.1% after he returned. It had been above 20% every other month, and is 19.5% over Marcum’s career. His velocity, which has never been great to begin with, was also worse than expected. And while we shouldn’t completely overreact to a month, it wasn’t a great way to go into the offseason.
Knowing that he was going to be a free-agent, it’s plausible that Marcum pushed to come back too soon. He may not have been fully recovered from the injury, as his stats suggest, which caused his struggles. It’s also plausible that an offseason of rest may have been the best thing for Marcum. He has bounced back strong from an injury before, pitching 195.1 innings a year after Tommy John surgery. Marcum has entered a better situation, and is a good bet to improve if healthy. He’s exactly the type of player you should pay attention to during spring training. If his velocity seems solid, and his performance is above-average, you could have a bargain on your hands. If Double-A players are knocking around his batting practice fastball, his run as an effective pitcher could be over.