A pitcher needs to command the game. He must assert his authority if he wishes to be successful. He imposes his will to dictate what the hitter may or may not swing at in terms of his pitches.
He has to have that swagger.
Marcus Earl Stroman certainly looked like ‘The Earl’ in his recent start in Toronto against the Texas Rangers, picking up the victory. Marcus Stroman went seven innings, giving up only four hits while striking out five batters. Texas got a late run off of the bullpen, but the Blue Jays held on for the win, 4-1 at home.
The former Duke righty is used to that ‘Blue Swagger’ lately, having seven quality starts out of nine in his rookie season with the Blue Jays, especially at home in the Rogers Centre. The swagger comes from his confidence playing close to his home in Medford, New York as well as his outstanding breaking ball.
When many pitchers throw a curve ball, it moves more distinctly vertical than their slider, which slips horizontally. Stroman’s breaking ball has both. The power that Stroman uses on the pitch makes it difficult for hitters to decide whether it will stay in the strike zone or drift to the bottom or outside of the plate.
Most starting pitchers have a solid fastball that dominates hitters when set up properly. Instead, Stroman threw so many breaking balls, the hitters could not hit it with any effectiveness, leaving themselves skeptical when a fastball seemed to be coming down the pipe. The Rangers had fits trying to decide which pitch to swing at, giving Stroman a relatively easy time on the mound.
The fourth inning was the only time Stroman looked to be in any difficulty. He started to use more variety with his pitches, which led to the bats zeroing in on the fastball. With two runners on base and none out, the Rangers looked to cash in some runs. Stroman had other ideas. A healthy dose of breaking balls helped Stroman strike out the next two batters. A former Blue Jay, J.P. Arencibia could not handle the next four pitches from Stroman, hitting a ground ball to end the Texas threat.
On further examination, Stroman’s wrist would flick on every pitch, providing the extra kick on his breaking ball. The only thing the Rangers could count on is that every pitch looked the same and seemed to be heading for the strike zone. As the ball would dip and drift in different locations, so did the hopes of the Texas faithful to win the game. Stroman only needed an average of five to seven pitches for each batter he faced.
The only weakness Stroman seemed to have was his fastball. As filthy as his curving slider or sliding curve was, his fastball was a 94 mph straight line. It was very hittable. The good thing was that nobody could hit it either because nobody knew if it was coming.
If Stroman wants to feel that strut in his step, he should feed that swagger a healthy diet of breaking balls and disappointed batters. Nobody seems to be able to touch his pitches, making Stroman a dominating force on the mound. Look for this strut to continue.