2018 is a season Marcus Stroman is understandably excited to put behind him, and like others in the rotation, remaining healthy and on the mound will be key for a bounce back. Stroman hit the disabled list in May with shoulder fatigue after missing most of Spring Training due to shoulder inflammation. He went back on the DL in mid-August after struggling for some time with a blister, which caused him to pretty much miss the remainder of the season.
Even when he was healthy and on the mound, Stroman didn’t fare too well with an ERA of 5.54 across 19 starts. He had his lowest strikeout rate of his career and his highest walk rate ever. Players were pulling the ball against him more than ever before, and were simply hitting him harder.
In 2017, Stroman’s best season to date, he combined to use his fastball and slider 85.6 per cent of the time, and if you were at the plate chances were you wouldn’t even see his cutter, using it just 2.4 per cent of the time. This season he used the cutter 15.7 per cent of the time and went away from the slider, using it 29% less and re-introducing his curveball, using it about 50 per cent more than the previous year (all numbers provided by FanGraphs).
"“Just at a point where I felt like I had to work at 115-120 per cent when I would normally be working at 80-85 per cent to do what I have to do out there,”"
Long story short, Stroman relied less on his slider and brought back his curveball, something he used much more over his first few seasons, and also added the cutter to his arsenal.
Baseball is a tricky sport with blisters and playing with new grips and pitches. That may have had something to do with it or absolutely nothing at all. All we know is that even before the blister issues, his shoulder wasn’t 100 per cent early in the season and he had to work even harder on the mound.
“Just at a point where I felt like I had to work at 115-120 per cent when I would normally be working at 80-85 per cent to do what I have to do out there,” said Stroman to reporters in May.
Stroman struggled out of the gate after a short spring and seemed to battle to provide the Blue Jays with innings, never being able to get in a rhythm.
If the season was extended for a few weeks, Stroman could have been ready to pitch and therefore he will enter the spring feeling at the top of his game physically. Stroman should be fun to watch this season as he has two years to find his 2017 form again before hitting the open market. Prior to last season, he pitched over 400 innings combined in 2015 and 2016, and with a rotation that could desperately use some stability and innings, Stroman will look to be that man again.