Shaun Marcum continued his solid performance in Monday’s start against the Philadelphia Phillies. Over six innings, Marcum held the Phillies to only one unearned run on five hits and no walks, striking out five in the process. Perhaps more impressive was Marcum’s induction of ground balls from the Phillies bats: a whopping 11, against only two fly balls and two line drives.
Now, this is not typical Shaun Marcum. Over his career, Marcum only induces 39.8% ground balls, so seeing him post a 73.3% rate in Monday’s game is certainly a bit of a surprise. As is usually the case, Marcum did most of his damage with his changeup.
As usual, when it comes to pitch data, I use the Pitch F/X database at Brooks Baseball. Marcum used his changeup a remarkable 45 times in 102 pitches, easily the most of any pitch thrown, even more than his two fastballs combined. The pitch became Marcum’s bread and butter, as 36 of the 45 (80%) went for strikes, and a fantastic 13 of them (29%) were of the swinging variety.
It’s the effectiveness and reliability of this changeup that allows Marcum to get by with his rather unimpressive fastball. The fastball only topped out at 87.7 for Marcum and not a single one of them missed a swinging Philadelphia bat. However, nearly 60% of them were strikes and when the Phillies did make contact — most of the time, as all but one of his swinging strikeout was on the change — it was weak.
Shaun Marcum appears settled in and Monday night was a showcase of his best stuff. It may not be the typical way for a pitcher to achieve dominating stuff, Brewer fans will learn (and perhaps already have learned) that his changeup is a thing of beauty, and can make a relative soft-tosser into a dominant pitcher.