At 5-foot-8 and just 180 pounds, Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman might not look like much to the untrained eye. However, the diminutive 26-year-old righty packs a significant punch on the mound, and it’s a reason why he’s been one of the few bright spots on a team with a 54-60 record heading into his start on Friday night.
The Blue Jays are 11 games out in the AL East, but just four games out in the race for one of the two Wild Card spots, and Stroman is a big reason for it.
Through 145 innings and 23 starts, Stroman has posted a 3.17 ERA. He has an electric repertoire, but he uses it in a way that is a bit different than what we see from traditional aces these days. He gets enough strikeouts to be sure — 7.5 per nine innings — but he’s a heavy groundball pitcher, as he’s induced 62.1 percent on the batted balls he’s allowed this season. This is the third year in a row he’s been over that 60 percent mark, and he’s creeping up on 60 percent (59.3 percent) for his career.
The MLB average this year, for a point of reference, is 44.2 percent, and has been in the vicinity of 45 percent since 2002, when Fangraphs started tracking this data.
Stroman does it with a heavy sinker that he throws very frequently. So far this season, he’s thrown 1,301 sinkers and no more than 445 of any other pitch. He averages 93.4 mph on the sinker — touching 96 — and it induces grounders 70.4 percent of the time that it’s put into play.
Foundationally, this is great because grounders are successfully fielded about 70 percent of the time by a good defense, and even those that aren’t caught typically are just singles. That makes big innings tough to string together against groundball pitchers, for instance.
With Stroman though, you come for the grounders and stay for the rest of his electric repertoire. After all, the strikeouts have to come from somewhere, right? He has a swinging strike rate of 22 percent on his slider — his second-most used pitch — and he’s in the vicinity of 16-18 percent on his cutter and rarely-used changeup as well. With six pitches, a heavy sinker and a great slider and even some sneaky pitches he’ll throw in there to keep hitters on their toes every now and then, it isn’t hard to see why Stroman is among the best young pitchers in the game.
He’s also in the top-10 in the AL in innings this season, so he’s been durable. That was a question based on his size and the fact that he missed almost a full season after tearing his ACL.
By: Brandon Warne