Back a few months ago when the Toronto Blue Jays were still playing baseball, I had an idea to produce a weekly Sabermetrics Saturday piece for fans to engulf on their weekends. That idea unfortunately proved to be a pipe dream but since I spent most of my Friday night perusing the fantastic services provided by Brooks Baseball I figured my findings were interesting enough to share with our readers.
Marcus Stroman has PITCHf/x data!
If you aren’t familiar with PITCHf/x (it’s okay, we all have to start somewhere) here’s the full definition from FanGraphs. It’s basically a tracking system that measures every pitch thrown in MLB.
Minor League Baseball does not currently have access to the same technology, which leaves most of us at the mercy of scouting reports (usually pay-walled), Twitter game-watchers and other less efficient methods to get the same information we so easily obtain on MLB players.
However according to Brooks Baseball they have a collection of 160 pitches that were thrown by Stroman in 2013. They come from two sources – Spring Training in March and the recently completed Arizona Fall League.
If for some reason you haven’t already I would strongly recommend reading Kyle Boddy’s piece on Stroman at The Hardball Times. He breaks down Stroman’s mechanics in awe-inspiring fashion, which completely put to bed any ideas the 5’9 stud can’t hold up as a starting pitcher.
I’m definitely no scout and will admit I don’t have the eye or training to point out the kind of mechanical stuff the way Boddy or even our resident Jays Journal expert Kyle Matte so admirably do. But looking at Stroman’s very limited PITCHf/x sample size I wanted to share some promising trends from my Brooks Baseball adventure.
Fans who followed the AFL would be already aware but Stroman pitched out of the bullpen during the event, which I mention firstly because it mostly likely allowed him to pitch at maximum effort. You can’t pitch that way as a starter so it’s not entirely accurate to compare to his velocity numbers during the regular season with New Hampshire. However for reference, according to this scouting report from Batting Leadoff his fastball mostly sat in the 92-94 MPH range but it’s been widely reported he’s been able to touch 96 MPH since college.
It’s also probably not correct to compare Stroman’s velocity in March (from 4 IP) to more recent appearances since he wasn’t stretched out at the time. However pitching out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays in Spring Training is comparable enough to pitching out of the bullpen in the AFL since we aren’t looking at actual results, simply the speed of his pitches.
Firstly, Stroman increased his average fastball velocity nearly 2 MPH during the Arizona Fall League compared to Spring Training. It may not sound like much but the fact he’s throwing harder now than in earlier in the season is a very promising sign. He’s pitched 120 innings and hasnt’ worn down at all and although as I mentioned before we’ve heard that Stroman has thrown 95-96 in the past it’s nice to finally have some PITCHf/x confirmed numbers to bank on.
And for those who like their data in tabular form:
But the fastball isn’t the interesting part of this story. The above graph and table also reminded us of the cutter that Stroman added to his arsenal, which he started throwing more regularly this season with New Hampshire. It’s debatable when he actually learned the pitch since Bluebird Banter found footage of what looks like a cutter from his stint with the Vancouver Canadians during 2012 but it’s tough to be sure.
Most of us took notice of the pitch after Harry Pavlidis at Baseball Prospectus tweeted what it could mean for Stroman’s future with the Blue Jays.
teaching Stroman a cutter is a hint that the Jays see him as a starter
— Harry Pavlidis (@harrypav) November 8, 2013
It’s interesting to look at the path Stroman took to develop the pitch. He mentioned it during an interview with FanGraphs back in May and had this to say about the pitch.
I’m throwing a slider-cutter now. It’s a slider and anywhere from 85 to 88. My progression was… we were trying to get my slider harder. I used to throw a slider and a cutter, so we kind of banged the slider. I was throwing a cutter, but it basically developed into the slider I throw now. That’s the reason I use those two references. When I’m throwing the pitch, I think cutter, but it’s more of a true slider. It has depth to it.
He’s now upped the velocity on the pitch to around 93 MPH if you look at his PITCHf/x data from the AFL (although I should point out they only tracked 5 cutters). Regardless it’s an insane progression. In six short months he’s worked on the pitch to the point it looks to be MLB-ready, which should give even more reason for the Blue Jays to believe he’ll be primed for the Bigs after what I’m expecting to be a two-month Triple-A warm-up.
There’s much more we could look at when it comes to Stroman’s Brooks Baseball page but since it’s such a limited sample size (plus, um, I’m lazy) we’re going to stop here. But I would love to hear what you guys think about Marcus Stroman and what you project for his MLB career. My crystal ball points to a legitimate top three starter and might even make Jays fans forget that Michael Wacha even existed… or maybe not. Nonetheless, the future looks bright for Mr. Stroman and I can’t wait to see what his future hold within the Toronto Blue Jays organization.