It is hard to miss the drama of the glorious comeback that Toronto Blue Jays right handed hurler Marcus Stroman is attempting. Having completed his degree over the summer while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, he has now returned to pitching professionally. His comeback started in dominant fashion, albeit against over-matched Single A competition. But while his comeback draws all the press these days, let’s not forget why we are excited in the first place, and just how brilliantly Stroman shined when he became a starter last year, as a 23 year-old rookie.
Stroman is the shortest starter in the majors in 25 years, which just makes his 95-96 mph fastball all the more impressive. Stro had his first ever start on May 31, 2014, and then quickly, improbably, came to be considered the ace of the staff. In the next two months, Stroman pitched 68 innings over 11 starts, and by the end of July he had a 5-2 record as a starter, with a stellar 2.12 ERA, .208 opponents batting avg, and 1.00 WHIP^.
From May 31st to season’s end, the rookie came out of nowhere to become the Jays’ most reliable starter, with 2 complete games in 20 starts, a 3.18 ERA and 1.078 WHIP. Over 124.1 innings Stroman gave up only 44 earned runs, 107 hits and 27 walks.
These are rare numbers for any rookie starter, but considering that he comes at you with 6 pitches^^ (according to Brooks Baseball: sinker, 93.5mph average, 32% usage, four-seam, 94.5mph, 23%, curve, 83mph, 16%, cutter, 91.5mph, 15%, Slider, 88mph, 8%, Changeup, 86mph, 6%), Stroman’s rookie campaign and potential become downright scary.
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^ WHIP, or walks plus hits per inning pitched, is an increasingly commonly used pitching stat. Zack Greinke leads the majors at .85, while Stroman’s 1.078 mark would be good for 17th, right behind #16 David Price, 1.077, and just ahead of Marco Estrada’s 1.082.
^^ A 6 pitch repertoire is nearly double the major league average.