Is Shaun Marcum a better choice than Chris Young for Mets’ rotation?

The New York Mets finalized their deal with free agent Shaun Marcum last week. Prior to that, they had been kicking the tires on re-signing Chris Young. While that may still be an option, it now appears unlikely. On the surface, it may seem that Marcum is easily an upgrade over Young, but if you look deeper into the stats, you see just how close they really are. Here’s a tale of the tape.

By age: Marcum seemingly holds an advantage. He turned 31 in December while Young will be 34 in May. But with age comes experience. Marcum has seven years pitching in the Majors and he has missed an entire season due to injury. More on that later. Young has nine seasons in the big leagues, but has missed nearly two full seasons with injuries. Advantage: Marcum

By physical tools: Young is 6′ 10″ and hides the ball very well in his lanky frame. He relies primarily on prowess to strike batters out. His fastball reaches in the mid-80’s on average when healthy. He is a pitcher that relies heavily on fly balls. He holds a career 54% fly ball rate. The move from Petco Park to Citi Field has proved to be worse. In two seasons, he has allowed eight home runs at Citi Field compared to seven from 2007-2010 in Petco Park.

Marcum is merely 6′ 1″, a shrimp compared to Young. He has a more explosive fastball, but not by much. When healthy he reaches in the high 80’s on a regular basis. He, too, relies on being a finesse pitcher. He is a fly ball pitcher that should benefit from the larger confines of Citi Field. He holds a career 42.3% fly ball rate. He has given up 64 home runs between both hitters parks he has pitched in. The move to Citi Field should make more of an impact on him than it did on Young. Advantage: Marcum

By health: Young has had a lengthy history of injuries. He was shut down twice after just four starts, in back-to-back seasons, one with San Diego and one with the Mets. He missed the second half of 2009 and most of 2010 after shoulder surgery. After re-tearing the shoulder, he missed most of 2011 and the first half of 2012 rehabbing after a second should surgery.

Marcum has had several injuries as well. The one major injury was at the end of the 2008 season. It resulted in surgery and shut him down for the entire 2009 season. He spent two months of 2012 on the DL with elbow tightness that was credited to the shoulder issues. Advantage: Marcum

By general career stats: Young has a career 3.79 ERA and a 1.222 WHIP in 159 career starts. He has never posted a shut out, but has one complete game. He had three seasons of thirty or more starts, two with fifteen to twenty and four with less than that. He has 755 strikeouts but has only surpassed 160 in a season twice and triple digits only three times. He has never pitched 180 innings in a season but he has two seasons of 164 innings or more. He has only had two double digit seasons for wins, with the last one coming in 2006 in Texas with better run support.

Marcum has a career 3.76 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP in 174 games with 149 starts. This means that while he has spent the vast majority of his career as a primary starter, he has had experience out of the bullpen. That’s a plus, despite those bullpen numbers being far from good. Like Young, Marcum has one complete game but no shut outs.

Unlike Young, however, he has reached 150 innings in a season four times, with two of those being 195 innings or more. He has 746 strikeouts. That is very close to Young’s total but with two fewer seasons. Of those seasons, five of them have been triple digit strikeout seasons, including two of 158 or more. He has had three triple digit seasons in wins with the last one coming in 2010 with Toronto. Advantage: Marcum

Overall, the two pitchers would seem to be mirror images of each other in many ways. Both have similar velocity, pitching philosophies, ERA, WHIP, K totals, injury history and playoff experience (one playoff run each). The biggest difference then is the age. Marcum is younger and has a chance to rebound to form much better than Young. With one major surgery to overcome, Marcum has a smaller risk of re-aggravating his injury than Young does after his two surgeries.

At the end of the day, it comes down to a roll of the dice. Both pitchers could potentially be an asset or a detriment. Between these two, however, the smarter money is on Shaun Marcum.

3 comments for “Is Shaun Marcum a better choice than Chris Young for Mets’ rotation?

  1. Chris F
    February 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Well written Frank. I completely agree. I wont shed a tear about not seeing CY in the rotation. Everyone knew his liabilities. He could only get through the batting order twice before becoming unhinged and a complete liability. He could be driven out of the game early placing a lot more stress on the pen on an every start basis. Who knows what Marcum will bring, and I dont have high hopes, but its worth seeing if a different arm can produce better results.

    Having been at this game:

    perhaps does not let me view CY too favorably!!!

    • Frank
      February 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Ahhh the memories Chris. Thanks for the reminder. I never was a fan of Young, but I had hoped he would not be a total disaster. He did well last year. Problem is he just can’t stay healthy. I like the upside to Marcum much better. Hopefully, he will not be another Young in Queens. Thanks for the comment Chris.

  2. Name
    February 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Marcum has been a model of solid consistancy for the last 3 years with ERA’s of 3.64,3.54, and 3.70. You know what’s he going to give you when healthy.
    Because the question was phrased as best for “the METS rotation” i think the choice has to be Marcum because while he might not give us a full season, we actually have some options for the rotation this year if someone were to go down this an injury. So i’d rather than 20 starts of sub-4 ERA of Marcum (with 10 starts by the kids like McHugh/Meija/Wheeler) than 33 starts of 4+ ERA of Young.

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