While a rib injury kept Zack Greinke on the DL for the first month of the season and Yovani Gallardo struggling, Shaun Marcum has done his part to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the NL Central.
Marcum led the Brewers to the team's fourth win in a row against the Dodgers while improving his record to 5-1. He threw seven innings, allowing one run on five hits, one walk and four strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 2.54 for the season. Marcum kept the Dodgers off balance last night by throwing 73 off-speed pitches (38 changeups) compared to 25 fastballs—an approach he has used since being acquired from the Brewers in the off-season.
While he has always heavily relied on the use of his fastball and changeup, there has been a drop in Marcum's average fastball velocity (87.1 to 86.3 mph) this season. With this drop in velocity, Marcum has increased the use of every one of his off-speed pitches (changeup, curveball, cutter and slider). He has thrown his fastball at a 29.1 percent rate compared to 45.1 percent last season. There has been a six percent increase in his usage of his slider, five percent for his change-up (30.8 percent), one percent for the cutter and a four percent increase in the usage of his curveball.
The change in approach has wielded great results for Marcum. He has the second best swinging strike percentage for qualified starting pitchers at 12.7 percent—a significant increase from his 2010 percentage of 10.7. Additionally, he has the lowest contact rate of all qualified starters at 69.9 percent. His strikeout rate has increased from 7.6 K/9 to 8.58, and his walk rate remains an above average 2.06 BB/9.
He has been able to keep hitters from making solid contact against him because he throws the third least amount of strikes among qualified starters at 38.6 percent. Hitters have made contact with the those pitches out of the zone at a 54.3 percent rate, which is seventh in baseball.
Marcum's .274 BABIP, 77.4 percent strand rate and 5.3 percent HR/FB ratio have benefited his ERA, but his BABIP is actually below his career average. A slight regression will take place over the coming months, but Marcum will continue to be a force for the rest of the season.