Was Shaun Marcum the missing link to the Milwaukee Brewers' success?

Devon TeepleAnalyst IAugust 30, 2011

The bandwagon is completely full with Milwaukee Brewer fans these days, and I can’t say that I blame them. They are a young exciting team that completely dominates the competition at home (50-16), and are now literally running away with the NL Central. 

If there is any talk about mid-to-small market teams not having success, the Brewers are completely blowing that out of the water. Admittedly, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are the main spokes in this wheel, but as every baseball person knows; pitching wins in the playoffs. 

Zack Greinke was a huge coup for the Brewers which gave them a legitimate number one starter, but perhaps the biggest move they made in the offseason was acquiring Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays for Canadian-born Brett Lawrie. 

The trade, in hindsight, made sense for everyone. With the demise of Aaron Hill and the emergence of Jose Bautista, the tides were turning in Toronto. Another youth movement is on the horizon. Marcum to the Brewers, now sid- by-side with Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, gives them four solid starters, something no other team in the NL Central has at this moment. 

And bringing Marcum into the fold was not something that was out of the blue. With a spotty history of nagging arm injuries that perhaps made the Jays’ a little apprehensive, he has a knack for getting people out, rarely touching 90 mph.

With parts of six years under his belt Marcum has a .240 batting average against, and a career WHIP of 1.21. What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that he is relying less on his fastball (32.8 percent) and really laying it on thick with curveballs (15.2, highest in six years), and changeups (almost 27 percent)*. Granted, he is away from the power-laden AL East. In theory, Marcum now deals with eight batters in an ultimately weaker division. 

What Marcum proves is that if you are consistently hitting your spots, changing speeds and keeping the hitters off balance, you can win. And winning is something that he does nearly 62 percent of the time.

Given that the six years is a relatively small window to determine how good he is, you can almost guarantee 13 wins and five losses per year. It is almost as if the Brewers played this out perfectly with a rotation of five starters who on average pull in 13 to 15 wins (including Chris Narveson). 

It will be interesting to see how the Brewers wind up in the playoffs. They have the power, they have the pitching and all the momentum any team could ask for. If Marcum stays healthy, and can stay on pace for career highs in wins, innings pitched, ERA and anything else positive, the Brewers will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in October. 

*Many thanks to Fangraphs for the statistical information.

Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective

Devon is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals& Gateway Grizzlies, and is now an independent scout.