Sunday, June 26, 2011

Questioning The Unquestionable

After dominating the NL since he was brought over from Toronto Shaun Marcum has shown he was worth everything the Brewers gave up to get the big righty. After going down with a hip strain on June 17th Brewer Nation held it's collective breath as we awaited the news on his most recent injury. Initial reports say that he is fine and Marcum expects to make his next start against the Yankees, a club that he has seen more than any other pitcher on the Brewers staff. The Crew is 12-10 in June, including a 20 game stretch in which the Brewers did not have a day off, and pulled one of the toughest interleague schedules in recent memory. We need Marcum healthy to compete with elite offenses as we have seen, so is this most recent injury a bump in the road, or a glimpse of things to come.

In his entire time with the Blue Jays as a starter Marcum never went over 200 IP. He came closest last year with 195.1, but aside from that he has gone about 150 IP in 2007 and 2008. As it stands right now Marcum has thrown 94.2 IP, and looks to eclipse the 200 IP mark for the first time in his career. Not only is he looking to set that benchmark, but he is also posting career lows in HR/9 (0.86) and HR/FB (7.7%). He has also shown that he can control a game, striking out roughly 8 per 9 and walking just over 2. Given that he has been out performing his averages most baseball fans would expect a correction, but Marcum's problems may lie in his health and not his stats.Following his breakout campaign for Toronto in 2007 things were looking up for Marcum. He had just had his highest pitch totals of his career, went 12-6, and posted a 1.4 WAR on the season. But, just like Icarus who flew too close to the sun, Marcum was shut down and would eventually have Tommy Johns surgery to repair his wing. Marcum did not pitch again in the majors until opening day 2010 and got his first win after TJS against the Oakland A's. The rest is history as Marcum had his best season, posted career numbers across the board, and had arguably his best win of his career, a contract with the Brewers.

So far Marcum is the ace that we all thought he was, and I am in no way trying to shake any confidence in Shaun, but in baseball we always look at history. Marcum has a list of injuries and ailments that seem to be red flags when it comes to IP. As I said before Marcum should reach 200 innings if he stays healthy the rest of the year, but the warnings should not be ignored. His ERA (2.95), WHIP (1.06), and opponent BA (.212) are nice to look at, but don't be surprised if Marcum has another injury as he eclipses 200. ZIPS updated estimates has Marcum pitching about 175 innings, which would be about 11 starts, and matching his win total from 2007. If he's healthy there is no doubt in my mind he will go the distance, and be able to help the Brewers in the post-season push.


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