Marcus Stroman

Monday, July 29 2019 @ 12:45 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

If things didn't end badly, they wouldn't end at all?

That's not always true. It just seems that way sometimes. I hate to think of Marcus putting all those balls in play with that defense behind him. But he does get to hit and run the bases. Good luck to him. It's been fun.

And I have some things to do, so I'm just going to cut and paste the five Stroman entries from the annual report card. Never a dull moment.

(2014) Marcus Stroman B
- As Buehrle's entire career has demonstrated, there is art to this pitching stuff, and folks, it's just a beautiful thing. Watching a pitcher set up a hitter -  changing his eye level, getting him looking inside and out, destroying his timing to the extent that he can't catch up with a mid-80s fastball.... well, it's like poetry. I love it to death. Some pitchers seem to have picked up this ability in the womb - Maddux comes to mind, Bret Saberhagen; others pick up some of these dark arts along the way. Many never do, of course. But there's a flip side to the poetry, and that's naked aggression. Throwing your best punch, in the unshakeable belief that it will knock your man down. Stroman is the most aggressive starter the Jays have come up with since Josh Towers was around. Y'all remember Josh, don't you? Like Stroman, Towers was an under-sized RH (Stroman is short, Towers was just scrawny). Unlike Stroman, Towers had a distinctly below-average fastball (oops!) and he couldn't change speeds to save his life (Big Oops!) His aggressiveness was pretty much all he had, and he still managed a three year run when he went 30-22 with an ERA+ of 109 for the Jays. Stroman has that same quality, and much, much more besides. Like a fastball and an off-speed pitch. And he can pitch a little, too. He's a ballplayer. Successful RH starters of Stroman's size don't come around very often, but this may turn out to be one of those times.

(2015) Marcus Stroman A
It was only four starts. But still... And the fact that he was even there to make them is probably even more impressive.

(2016) Marcus Stroman C
One doesn't really want to talk in terms of "what went wrong" about a team that had a post-season run, so let's talk about "what didn't go right" - and what didn't go right for the 2016 Blue Jays were disappointing performances by three players being counted on for much more than they delivered. One, obviously, was Bautista. The second was Stroman, who was expected to be an ace and instead turned into a league average innings-eater. Which was considerably less than was expected. Stroman ended up taking over R.A. Dickey's role on the team, as Dickey himself began to fade out of the picture. What happened? I think Stroman just fell in love with the sinker, and threw so many that he lost a bit of his feel for his other pitches. No pitcher in baseball got as many groundballs, and groundballs will find holes between the fielders. I expect he's learned something from the experience. As we know, and as we all appreciate about him, he's not the type of competitor who would be satisfied with this year's work. Like Estrada, Stroman took 3 Tough Losses this season, and had no Cheap Wins.

(2017) Marcus Stroman A-
Stroman was clearly the team's best player in 2017, and what's interesting when you peer under the hood is how closely his 2017 season resembles his rather disappointing 2016 campaign. A year ago, opposing batters hit .264/.313/.407 against Stroman; this year they hit .264/.323/.392. His K-W data was essentially the same - he walked a handful more hitters in 2017. The small difference in Slugging is because about 11 hits that were doubles in 2016 became singles in 2017. But that hardly explains allowing 22 fewer runs, and cutting his ERA from 4.37 to 3.09 (and you'll notice, you FIP aficianados,  that Stroman's FIP was slightly higher this past season than it was in 2016.)  So why the difference in his results? Simple. His work with runners on base. This was a problem in 2016, when Stroman was considerably more effective with the bases empty (.695 OPS with the bases empty, .756 with runners aboard.) He solved that problem in 2017, which meant that effectively he was scattering the hits he gave up rather than bunching them. His defense also turned an extra dozen DPs behind him, which also helped. Quite a bit, I should think.  I doubt that this is a new ability - I think it's just something that happened. I'm certainly glad it happened, and I'll be pleased to see it happen again.  But his true established level of performance probably rests somewhere in between these past two seasons. Stroman had 5 Tough Losses - that's a lot - and 2 Cheap Wins.

(2018) Marcus Stroman D
Sometimes I think Stroman has been undone by the very mindset that has made him successful. He's been told all his life that he was too small to make it in the big leagues. As a necessity, he developed an obstinate belief in himself that he could indeed become a major league pitcher. And you have to give it up to him. He was right. Here he is. But it seems sometimes that there's something stubborn and obstinate about his game, that he doesn't adjust well to changing realities. And then I reflect - nah, I'm overthinking all of this. He's just a guy who doesn't miss enough bats to start with, so he's always going to be at the mercy of things he can't control. His defense, the umpires, the random vagaries of the Ball in Play.