A Look at Shaun Marcum’s 2010 Debut

I drafted Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum in a few leagues this year as a late round flier.  After missing almost the entire 2009 season with elbow surgery (aside from a few minor league innings), Marcum was named the Blue Jays opening day starter due to a good spring. 

On Monday, Marcum took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.  The no-no was broken up by a Vladimir Guerrero single and Marcum eventually surrendered a three-run home run to Nelson Cruz that same inning.  All-in-all Marcum went seven innings allowing three runs on two hits while walking only one and striking out six.

I wasn’t able to watch the game live, but I did notice something while going back over the highlights.  Marcum’s Changeup was very sharp and his command seemed spot on, but I was having trouble differentiating between his fastball and change.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.
You can see from the chart below (via that Marcum kept the ball down and around the corners of the strike-zone for the most part. 
He threw mostly fastballs and changeups, mixing in a curve/slider every once in a while.  The one problem that I saw was the little variance between his fastball and change.  The average velocity of Marcum’s fastball was 85.8 mph and the average velocity of his slider was 80.5 mph.  Clearly this was enough to keep Texas’s offense off balance for the most part, but teams will catch on to this fast and Marcum will have to adjust.
Going back to 2008, Marcum’s last healthy season, we find that his fastball and change were thrown with relatively the same velocities as what we saw on Monday.  He ended that 2008 season with a 3.39 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.  However, his BABIP against that season was an extremely low .257 and he stranded about 80 percent of runners on base (league average is about 70 percent). 
If we assume that Marcum will have similar stuff as he did in 2008 (~85 mph fastball, ~81 mph changeup), will use those pitches most often, will get similar strikeout and walk results and his BABIP against and strand rate regress to the mean, he should be moderately successful.  How successful is moderately successful?  My initial guess would be an ERA right around 4.00 with upside to come under that just a bit.  However, it is yet to be seen how his arm holds up as the season goes along.  How many innings will the Blue Jays let him throw in 2010?  The answers to those questions will largely determine his ultimate value.
The bottom line is that Shaun Marcum should once again be a quality pitcher, but he’s unlikely to repeat his 2008 ERA and WHIP success.  If he goes out and has another good outing in his next start I’d see what I could get for him on the trading block.  Chances are he’ll be a solid end of the rotation fantasy option, but there is enough risk coming off of surgery to consider selling high.