Toronto Blue Jays starter, Marcus Stroman is pitching well in 2019, but there are some interesting changes to his approach happening
Going into the 2019 season, this was a chance for Marcus Stroman to prove himself to the fans, management and himself what sort of pitcher he is. He has been a Blue Jay for 6 seasons now and after not getting a contract extension, management has signaled that if he wants the extension, he has to earn it on the mound. Although in 2019, Marcus Stroman has been unlike himself to say the least.
However, Sunday’s start against the Rays was unlike anything I have seen from the Medford, New York native. Usually hitters facing Stroman have been able to hit .262 against him, and yes the Rays hitters are able to manage a little higher (.278), but this start is unprecedented. One of the big things I have noticed with Stroman this season is he seems to be less reliant on the ground ball than ever before. When he came up, he was one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game, but, we’ve seen fewer ground balls from the Blue Jays’ Opening Day Starter.
When he started as a Blue Jay in 2014, 20.8% of the batters he faced struck out, now it’s up to 24.3% in 2019 (his career average is 19.5%). Looking at the ground ball to fly ball ratio, we see a rise in the number of fly balls now 1.13 ground balls per fly balls (GB/FB) which is lower than his career average of 1.54 GB/FB. Through this change, Marcus is throwing more pitches and not staying in the games as long as he should be. In a typical Marcus Stroman start, he is able to throw 6 innings, 94.8 pitches and 15.6 pitches per inning. Now the average Marcus Stroman start is 5.1 IP, 96 pitches and 22.75 pitches per inning. This is a concern, as the Blue Jays will now have to rely on their bullpen more, which could be tired from the day before with their 4th and 5th starters in the rotation, the two previous days.
For Marcus Stroman to be back to the dominant asset in the Blue Jays rotation, I would be working on how we can improve on getting more ground balls and relying on the defence behind him, as opposed to doing it himself. Stroman is an athletic guy and has won a Gold Glove as a pitcher, so this would be into his comfort zone. Looking at how to do that, I would throw fewer sliders (40% of his pitches) and throw more sinkers and cutters, which have both seen a significant drop in usage this season.
Obviously it’s early in the season, but tweaking now and making the necessary adjustments can benefit the team in the long run. If he does improve, then these couple of out of character starts won’t be remembered by his fans and critics.
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