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« Guess the Player | Main | Chris Davis Connecting, Crushing for O's »

Shaun Marcum, Swing and Miss King

Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum has not thrown a single pitch faster than 89 mph in 2012. No starting pitcher has been more adept than Marcum in getting hitters to swing and miss. 

Those two sentences create a kind of cognitive dissonance for many fans. When we think of whiff kings, we think of pitchers pumping premium mid-90s gas. But Marcum has induced more misses than the Verlanders, Strasburgs and Moores of the world by supplementing his speed-challenged heater (averaging 86.5 mph) with a mean mix of cutters, changeups, sliders and curves. Marcum's "heat" might not get many misses, but everything else he throws sure does:

PitchAvg. VelocityPct. ThrownMiss Pct.NL Avg. Miss Pct.
Fastball 86.5 28 13.8 15.3
Cutter 84.6 25 27.3 18.3
Changeup 80.6 20 43.1 30.3
Slider 80.4 18 46.2 31.2
Curveball 73 9 36.4 29.2
Overall     31.6 20.9


Marcum has always thrown lots of off-speed and breaking stuff, but he's using his fastball even less than in 2011 (33 percent) and 2010 (50 percent).

A key to Marcum's MLB-best miss rate is that he gets batters to chase his cornucopia of pitches off the plate. Opponents have gone after 35 percent of Marcum's pitches thrown outside of the strike zone, which ranks behind only R.A. Dickey, Jered Weaver and Ian Kennedy among starters. Against lefties, Marcum is getting most of his swings and misses on pitches located well off the outside corner or low and away:

Location of Marcum's swinging strikes versus lefty hitters, 2012

Right-handers, meanwhile, are also swinging through lots of pitches placed far off the outside corner:

Location of Marcum's swinging strikes versus righty hitters, 2012

By throwing fewer fastballs and getting hitters to futilely chase his breaking and off-speed pitches off the plate, Marcum is striking out a career-high 8.7 batters per nine innings pitched. Who needs a killer fastball when you can flummox hitters so many other ways?

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