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.