Thanks to a poor lifestyle decision when it was announced on Friday night that Marcus Stroman had been called up by the Toronto Blue Jays and would start on Saturday I was hugging my bathroom’s toilet bowl. By the time I came to my senses, Stroman was already into his fifth inning of work and I had missed what sounded like a spectacular start.
Thankfully this isn’t 1992 and the invention of MLB.TV allowed me to re-watch Stroman’s start from the beginning. And boy oh boy, was it ever something to behold.
His first pitch was high and away but he seemed to get the jitters out of his system quickly after that. Nori Aoki popped up the second pitch, a 95 MPH fastball, into shallow right field that Brett Lawrie was able to field cleanly after fighting off the sun on a bright day and an open roof at Rogers Centre.
Then the fun started.
His first pitch to the second batter, Alcides Escobar, was a perfectly delivered 96 MPH fastball with armside life that painted the outer edge. His next pitch was located in almost the identical spot at 97. With the count at 0-2, Stroman threw what looked like out of his hand was a fastball headed for the same spot but it was a well disguised slider with late, sharp break. Escobar had no chance, waving at the pitch for the second out.
Next up was Eric Hosmer, who is probably the Royals’ best pure hitter. Facing the lefty batter, Stroman attacked him nearly the exact same way as the right-handed hitting Escobar with two fastball on the outer edge. Hosmer fouled off the third pitch, which was a fastball high and out of the zone. With the count still at 0-2, Stroman unloaded another absolutely filthy slider with unreal vertical drop that nearly spun Hosmer in a circle as he struck out to end the frame. All Hosmer could say was “wow” – literally.
GIF courtesy Dan Toman
Thanks to the ineptitude of Aaron Brooks (and some awesome Blue Jays offense) we were forced to wait 30 minutes before watching Stroman pitch again. After the Blue Jays had finished batting around and scoring seven runs, Stroman returned and fired a strike to the first hitter he faced in the second, Billy Butler. Stroman missed low with a fastball on the second pitch of the at bat and was squeezed a bit on the third, which was a nearly perfect heater with good armside run that ended up just off the inside corner of the plate.
The next pitch was a swinging strike on the outside corner that Butler looked late on to even the count at 2-2. Stroman didn’t waste any time after that and put the right-handed DH away with yet another disgusting slider.
Stroman missed low to Alex Gordon on two straight fastballs to open up the next at bat. With the count 2-0, Gordon ripped a fastball to right that ended up as a double.
Danny Valencia followed and was greeted with a first pitch strike on the outer half. Stroman just missed with a low fastball with the second pitch before getting Valencia to chase a slider that just nicked the end of his bat for a foul ball. Next Stroman threw a high fastball well out the zone to even the count at 2-2 and then threw what looked like more of curve that just missed the bottom of the strike zone. With the count full Stroman painted a two-seam fastball on the outer edge to wring up Valencia looking for strike three.
The next batter, Chuck Hayes, couldn’t help but chuckle after he whiffed on the first pitch he saw from Stroman, which was a 95 MPH fastball located yet again perfectly on the outer edge. However Hayes, who was batting .067 for the season before his first at bat against Stroman, made weak contact on a curveball that found a hole in the left side of the infield to score Gordon from second.
This was a big point in the game for Stroman. He was victimized by some bad luck on balls in play and seemed a bit frustrated when the first run crossed the plate. He had pitched nearly perfectly to that point yet on a soft ground ball the Royals were able to score a run against him.
Stroman started the next at bat to Jarrod Dyson with another well located fastball on the outer edge. Two misses on fastballs, outside and inside, put the count in Dyson’s favour at 2-1 before Stroman ran a heater at the knees for strike two. He left one over the plate with the fifth pitch of the at bat, which Dyson fouled off, which was supposed to be a fastball outside that was a rare mislocated pitched from the young righty. With the count at 2-2, Dyson hit a swinging bunt off the end of the bat that catcher Dioner Navarro couldn’t handle, which was ruled an infield single.
Seemingly unfazed, with two men on base Stroman started off Pedro Ciriaco with a fastball in the zone at 95 MPH. The next pitch was a fastball down and away to even the count. Stroman then dialed up the cutter that started in the zone before darting out of it at the last moment, which generated a swinging strike from Ciriaco. Stroman then went back to the low curveball, which was fouled off, before he was able to end the inning with a ground ball to short off a fastball.
Stroman continued to attack in the third with mostly fastballs away to Aoki before inducing a ground out on what looked like a curve. He rode a fastball inside to Escobar to start the next at bat and got him to pop up behind home plate on the second pitch to the second out. Hosmer hit the ball hard to second base that Lawrie had no problem handling to make it a quick inning number three for Stroman.
Butler led off the fourth and Stroman started him with a hard cutter that just missed outside. Next was a fastball up and in that backed Butler off the plate. With the count 2-0, Stroman threw a low cutter that Butler hit up the middle for a broken bat single. To this point only two of Stroman’s four hit allowed left the infield and one of the two that made it into the outfield was by a slim margin.
However, like a boss, Stroman went right after the next batter Gordon and got him to reach on a cutter to induce a bases clearing double play. He pounded Valencia with fastballs up, down and outside before getting Valencia to wave at yet another sharp slider down to end the frame.
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After another long delay, Stroman started the fifth with another mid-90’s fastball. The second pitch got away from him a bit but after a fouled off cutter he threw yet another slider (or curve?) to Hayes for his sixth strikeout of the afternoon. After a Dyson fly out, which was his first out in the air, Stroman induced a ground ball from Ciriaco that Juan Francisco made a nice play on but Adam Lind couldn’t make the squeeze at first and was charged with an error (the error was originally charged to Francisco but it was later changed to Lind).
After getting ahead 0-2 to Aoki, Joe Siddall mentioned that Stroman came out of his delivery a bit and missed with high fastballs twice. He was able to quickly work back into the zone and got Aoki to ground out to Francisco who was able to make a strong throw to Lind to retire the side.
With his pitch count sitting at only 73, Stroman started the sixth by jumping ahead to Escobar 0-2 with two crisp heaters. After two misses, Stroman got Escobar to chase on what looked like a curve ball for a soft ground out. Hosmer followed and after getting tied up early in the at bat tapped a soft ground ball up the middle. Stroman, a former infielder, batted the ball down then tried to make a diving throw to first base. The play was reviewed and was upheld as safe but it was a tremendous effort from Stroman.
Butler lined out to Kevin Pillar on a full count for the second out after Butler refused to chase Stroman’s slider. Gordon then grounded out on the first pitch to end the inning.
That was the 94th and final pitch from Stroman as Todd Redmond took over to start the seventh. It was an electric outing, which made fans everywhere finally realize what type of talent Marcus Stroman really is.
His fastball/slider combination was lethal as both pitches looked the same coming out of his hand. The fastball had good armside life and it was hard with an average velocity of 95.5 MPH according to Brooks Baseball. He touched 97.2 MPH in the first inning and kept his velocity in the mid-90’s throughout the entire start.
Marcus Stroman velocity May 31, 2014. Credit Brooks Baseball
Brooks Baseball classified all of his sliders as curveballs so it’s tough to tell if he was throwing two different pitches or a variation of one. His whiff percentage on those pitches was 27.8%, which is a fantastic number. Hitters were fooled all afternoon as the amount of horizontal and vertical break was ridiculous. He didn’t have to throw many changeups as he recorded only 8 total according to Brooks Baseball.
Stroman made some very nice adjustments and most noticeably attacked hitters early in the count with his fastball. He worked all four quadrants and was able to locate when he had to – as you probably noticed, he didn’t walk a single batter on Saturday. It likely helped that he was given a huge lead to work and he described to Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star the experience was “like playing a video game with a cheat team”.
That’s not to take away what Stroman was able to do on Saturday. He showed for the first time at the professional level why scouts have been drooling over him for nearly two years now.
With an off day today, Stroman is expected to start on Friday at home against the St. Louis Cardinals (Barry Davis, Sportsnet). Trust me, I will be doing my very best not to miss it.