In the past week some attention has been given to the fact that Jason Marquis, at 8-4, could be a potential addition for a contender at the trading deadline.
The Colorado Rockies, before a six-game winning streak, have sat in the cellar of the NL West almost the entire season. They are looking to re-tool and unload established players for young prospects.
I’m here to issue a buyer beware: Jason Marquis is getting ready to slump.
Yes, he has won double-digit games every season since ’03. And yes, his eight wins tie him for best in the NL in ’09.
So he knows how to win games, right?
Well, sometimes. Marquis has also lost 48 games in that same stretch
Marquis has become a career offender in the department of inconsistency. He is, without being repetitive, consistently inconsistent.
As the season goes, Marquis always fades away throughout his career. Take a look at his career record as the season progresses:
It comes as no surprise, then, that ZiPS projects Marquis to level out as ’09 goes forth. Marquis is projected to finish the season at 15-12, with a far from impressive 4.56 ERA. Right now, his ERA is already a dangerously-high 3.96.
Don’t get me wrong: Marquis can be extremely good at times. In his eight wins this season, he has a 1.78 ERA. Better yet, his opponents' total OPS+ is a meager 57.
Note: Total OPS+ is relative to a player’s total on-base plus slugging percentage. 100 is average. This means that batters are doing 51% better than usual against Marquis in these situations.
In those eight wins, he has pitched 60 and two-third innings, good enough for seven and a half innings per start. Marquis has surrendered just two home runs in such games and has recorded 31 strikeouts to just 18 walks.
However, problems arise in those games when doesn’t have his best stuff. Marquis pitches really badly when he loses.
Marquis has walked ten and struck out only eight in 20 innings during his four losses. Additionally, he has given up five home runs in those outings. In these losses, he has a 10.41 ERA and batters have a total OPS+ of 193.
One major problem Marquis has difficulty with is keeping the leadoff batters in an inning from reaching base. The first batter of the inning is hitting .358 with ten extra base hits. Five have been home runs. Leadoff batters' total OPS+ is 187.
Not only does he struggle to start innings, but to start the game. From pitches one through twenty-five, batters have a total OPS+ of 151.
Marquis doesn’t give himself a chance to win by putting up numbers like those. He slacks off and loses focus some nights and is defeated before the first inning is over.
On other nights, when he knows things are working, Marquis can bear down and work out of tough situations to win ball games.
A great way to reveal the complete lack of focus in some situations is an analytic stat called leverage.
Basically, there are three situations of leverage. High leverage refers to more difficult situations and accounts for about 20 percent of all plays. Medium leverage refers to fairly normal plays and accounts for about 40 percent of all plays. Low leverage refers to plays in blowouts or mop-up situations, and accounts for about 40 percent of all plays.
So in high-leverage situations, Marquis has allowed batters a total OPS+ of 80. In medium leverage that skyrockets to 133, and then back down to 70 in low-leverage spots.
It is clear that Marquis is well-above average 60 percent of the time. The other 40 percent of the time accounts for the large chunk of his career in which he has become so unreliable.
Maybe if Marquis is put on a good enough team, he will be in enough close situations that he will stay focused and contribute positively.
On the other hand, he could pitch a team out of the game before they even take a swing. If a contender is looking for another starting pitcher, they want to steer away from pitchers who don’t fight through nights without their best stuff.
To make a playoff run, a team needs guys who will battle through as many innings as possible and do just enough to give the offense a chance to win in those games.
So beware, potential suitors. Mr. Marquis is likely to disappoint.