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Entries in Shaun Marcum (5)

Wednesday
May022012

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?

Tuesday
Oct112011

Marcum: Cursed, or Just Getting Crushed?

Shaun Marcum's first postseason hasn't been a pleasant experience. The 29-year-old righty, acquired from the Jays last winter for Brett Lawrie, has coughed up 12 runs and 14 hits in 8.2 innings spread over a pair of starts. After last night's beating at the hands of Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, Marcum wondered why the hardball powers-that-be continue to smite him:

Once again, it's seven hits, and three of them were hit hard. It's back to the same old [stuff] that has been going on the past six weeks. There's nothing you can do about it. You just have to keep moving on. ... I guess I get [irritated] with the baseball gods or something.

Marcum seemingly did have some bad breaks in September, as a low rate of stranding runners on base led to a big difference between his ERA (5.17) and his xFIP (3.86), which estimates ERA based on Ks, walks and a normalized home run per fly ball percentage. But can Marcum justifiably curse the Baseball Gods for his playoff woes?

He does have a whopping .387 batting average on balls in play, which isn't sustainable short of an army of scowling Ty Cobb clones coming to the plate. Looking at Marcum's postseason hit chart, there are a number of shallow singles in the outfield:

 

 

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, however, isn't convinced that Marcum's stinker starts are due to bad luck:

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy pinpointed the problem as fastball command.

"He's not as sharp as he was earlier in the year, and hopefully we can fix that and get him back down in the zone," Lucroy said. "Usually, he 'paints' down in the zone, and if you look back at the fastballs that Pujols hit, they're up. They're belt high. That's a pretty good pitch to hit."

While the fastball Pujols pummeled for a home run was high in the zone, Marcum hasn't missed high often with the pitch in the playoffs:

Marcum's fastball location in the 2011 playoffs

Marcum threw 22 percent of his seldom-used fastballs high in the zone during the regular season. In the playoffs, he has thrown 21 percent of them high in the zone.

Perhaps more interestingly, Marcum hasn't used his typically top-notch changeup much at all in the playoffs.  While he tossed a changeup 27 percent of the time during the regular season, he has gone to his off-speed stuff just 12 percent in the postseason. He's also throwing fewer curveballs (eight percent, compared to 15 percent in the regular season), instead relying more heavily upon his cutter.

There's no easy answer to Marcum's postseason problems. He likely has gotten a few bad breaks on balls in play, but he also has been more predictable by being a fastball/cutter pitcher instead of a guy who can toss five pitches in any count. Marcum's velocity hasn't changed greatly, but maybe the Tommy John survivor, who topped 200 innings for the first time in his career, is tired.

Whatever the cause, the Brewers need the command-and-control changeup artist to re-emerge if they're going to advance to the World Series. Maybe Marcum can make a sacrifice to those Baseball Gods -- a racing Brat or Chorizo, perhaps?

 

Tuesday
Oct042011

Marcum, Collmenter Soft-Tossing Clones

When Shaun Marcum pitches tonight, looking to sweep the Diamondbacks and give Milwaukee its first playoff series win since 1982, he'll face a rookie righty who bears a striking resemblance to himself. Marcum and Josh Collmenter posted nearly identical fielding-independent ERAs during the regular season (3.74 and 3.80, respectively) by limiting walks and shutting down right-handed hitters. While neither guy pushes a pitch past 90 on the radar gun, they keep hitters guessing by hitting just about every velocity range from the mid-60s to the high-80s.

Marcum and Collmenter both average around 87 mph with their fastballs, which ranks in the third percentile among all major league pitchers. With little hop on the pitch, neither uses his fastball much (37 percent for Marcum, 33 percent for Collmenter). However, Marcum and Collmenter have deep arsenals with a wide range of velocity:

Marcum changes speeds more when it comes to the percentage of pitches thrown in each velocity range. He really mixes it up, while Collmenter is apt to sit in either the high-70s or high-80s while occasionally tossing really slow stuff:

 

The slow, slower, slowest approach has worked splendidly for both pitchers against right-handers. Marcum has held righties to a .195/.243/.323 triple-slash, while Collmenter has limited same-handed batters to a .225/.250/.344 line. Lefties have been more of a challenge (.271/.327/.423 for Marcum, .250/.304/.404 for Collmenter), though neither has been roughed up too badly. Keep an eye on the radar gun tonight -- neither guy will light it up, but they'll add and subtract with the best of them.