This past week, the Mets’ pitching staff had its best week of the year. Jonathon Niese and Jeremy Hefner both turned out solid performances. Matt Harvey was exceptional as always, and Dillon Gee turned out the best start of his career with 12 strikeouts against the Yankees. On Friday, Shaun Marcum took the mound and he looked good until he gave up four runs in the seventh inning. Marcum’s season, like his start on Friday, has been lackluster, yet a turnaround for Marcum is not out of the question.
Marcum has been the subject of scrutiny, with the likes of Mike Francesa criticizing the fact that Marcum can’t make it past the fifth inning. Of course, Francesa is going to be partisan to the Yankees, but it seems as though Marcum is being criticized just because he has an ERA of 5.71. However, Marcum has been extremely unlucky this season, meaning that the inflated ERA is not necessarily his fault.
There are a couple of factors that have lead to Marcum’s ERA. He has posted a BABIP of .350 this season, which is abnormally high. This indicates that when hitters do make contact on his pitches the Mets defense hasn’t been covering the grounds well enough either to turn those balls into outs or prevent runs from scoring. The team’s inability to cover the ground in the outfield is a real hindrance for Marcum, considering he’s a fly ball pitcher with a FB% of 41% this season.
The combination of Marcum being a fly ball pitcher, and his reliance on fly balls, helps explain his bloated ERA. From a defense-independent point-of- view, Marcum has been slightly above average with a FIP of 3.21. In his starts, he has been everything Mets fans can expect from him. He’s striking out a decent number of guys with a K/9 of 7.90, and his control has been pretty good with a K/BB of 3.60. The only main concern with Marcum’s performance this season is his LOB percentage of 58.4%, which could be a psychological issue of not being able to perform well with guys on base, or it could be that he’s just unlucky.
Marcum is likely to turn it around this season. It doesn’t seem as though he’s going to have one of the worst ERAs in baseball because he’s performing so well peripherally. Sandy Alderson could consider helping Marcum’s cause by acquiring a decent outfielder by the trade deadline. Marcum has had it rough this season, but a turnaround is within reach.