Why signing Shaun Marcum was a mistake from the beginning

The Mets released pitcher Shaun Marcum on Tuesday, officially ending an obviously disappointing season for the 31 year old. One of Sandy Alderson’s big offseason additions, Marcum finished with a dismal record of 1-10 in 12 games started with an ERA of 5.29. The veteran’s season was finished after undergoing shoulder surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition affecting the likes of Josh Beckett and Noah Lowry. Were there signs that Alderson and his team could have read to make them reconsider signing Marcum? The answer is yes.

Sign #1 – Injuries

Plain and simple injuries are not Marcum’s best friend. Coming into the 2013 season, Marcum had missed over 10 months of playing time in his career, and they were all related to his right elbow. Soreness, strain, tightness, and the dreaded Tommy John surgery, all on Marcum’s right elbow. Being notorious recently for having injury-plagued teams, wouldn’t it have been a smart idea for the Mets to avoid injury-plagued players?  As it turns out, the Mets took a risk and it backfired, with Marcum’s right elbow acting up again and eventually ending his year.

Sign #2 – Role

The Mets needed a starting pitcher in 2013 to replace the traded R.A. Dickey. Obviously they wouldn’t be able to replace the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner with someone of that caliber, but they needed a decent pitcher and they “got one” in Shaun Marcum. So here he is, a guy with a career record of 48-36, put in the spot to replace a Cy Young winner. That’s a pretty hard job by my standards.  Couldn’t they have taken somebody from the organization – like a Carlos Torres (and look at how he’s pitching), Chris Schwinden or Jenrry Mejia (this is before he was sidelined due to injury) instead?  If you think they needed experience, couldn’t they have signed a wily veteran, instead?  They may not have been as good as Marcum, but thrusting someone with very little National League experience and iffy numbers at Cti Field into that spot might not have been the greatest idea. Also, if they signed him as a starter, why was he making appearances out of the bullpen? Marcum was originally a reliever, but he hadn’t played the position since 2007, so it would be smart to keep him on regular rest to not blow his arm out of the pen.

Sign #3 – Pressure

Marcum’s postseason numbers are horrendous. In threee games started, he has an ERA of 14.90 and has given up 3 HR in 9.2 IP. His hits allowed almost double his innings and his record sits at 0-3. Clearly, Marcum wouldn’t pitch in the postseason in 2013, so what’s the big deal? Pressure. Pitching in New York is one of the toughest things to do, and Marcum has never done it well in his career. He sports an ERA over 4.5 at Citi Field. His 6.27 ERA in the Bronx doesn’t stand out. So the stats tell the story, Marcum does not have his best games in New York, and he proved that this season.

Unfortunately, Marcum’s season ended prematurely, and with the way things look, he may not see big league action again for a while, if ever. He did have bright spots this year, such as his only win at U.S. Cellular Field where he allowed four hits and no runs over eight innings. Or against the Braves at home, where he struck out 12 and walked nobody, but took home the no-decision. It will be interesting to see if Marcum’s career is finished or if another desperate team takes a chance on him like the Mets did this season.

8 comments for “Why signing Shaun Marcum was a mistake from the beginning

  1. Name
    July 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Marcum was one guy i was dead wrong about in my preseason predictions.

    I thought this guy was going to be an easy #2, sliding right behind Santana. But he probably came here damaged and when you’re only throwing in the mid-80s, it’s hard to survive.

    For what it’s worth, Fangraph still really likes him with a mid 3’s FIP and 1.2 fWAR compared to Torres who only has a .5 fWAR. B-R says the exact opposite with Marcum having a -0.7 bWAR and Torres being worth 1.3 bWAR

    • Chris F
      July 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      why is there a difference between FG and BR?

      • July 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        BR & FG take different things into account when calculating WAR. I’m not sure what, though…

      • July 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm

        WAR is a framework for measuring a player’s total contributions. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and it’s a feature, not a bug, that there are two methods championed by two very respected sites.

        Actually, the two sites are closer than before on their respective WAR calculations, as they now use the same basis for calculating replacement level.

        One of the major differences is that FanGraphs uses FIP as the basis for their pitching calculations. If you use ERA you are adding defense into pitcher valuations and giving a boost to pitchers from teams like this year’s Royals and Diamondbacks, which have strong defenses behind them. On the flip side, you are punishing pitchers from the Mariners and Astros, which this year have poor defensive clubs.

        As a team, the Mets have a -18.5 team UZR, which ranks 25th in MLB. If we’re looking to establish a pitcher’s value, why should we penalize Shaun Marcum because Terry Collins thinks playing Lucas Duda in LF is a good idea?

        If you’re curious to the other differences, both sites go into great detail about how their numbers are calculated. Just visit their sites and you’ll find out how they do it.

  2. Jerry Grote
    July 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I liked this signing and I don’t have any reason to back track on it at this point. You can’t predict injuries, and if SM didn’t have the injury record you wouldn’t have paid so little for him.

    He wasn’t horrific, and our total outlay on him probably wasn’t over the top. It didn’t work out, but it’s not the same as committing 800 plate appearances to guys that were batting under .150 at the time they went to the dish or anything.

    I’m pretty darned sure the author wasn’t thinking in March that Carlos Torres was going to pitch this well. In fact, I’d be shocked if anyone here even thought about him even pitching at all for this team.

    Best wishes Mr. Marcum. As with most players, we hardly put you in a position to succeed, but you gutted it out.

  3. July 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    “Also, if they signed him as a starter, why was he making appearances out of the bullpen?”

    In fairness, the 2 times he was used out of the ‘pen were in games that had gone longer than 14 innings and Terry Collins had run out of “pure” relief pitchers.

  4. July 24, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    This was going to be a rebuilding season anyway. So what’s the difference if the team won 70 or 75 games. It only delayed the organization from evaluating their young pitchers at the major league level. I think SA signed Marcum because of not only losing R.A. but losing Santana as well and did not feel that the youngsters were ready to pitch here. He bought time for the kids to mature and really in the long run did not hurt the future of the organization. Just wish the best for Marcum and let’s move on.

  5. Jerseymet
    July 24, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I did not agree with this signing. It was expensive filler. Marcum’s contract was eight to sixteen times the league minimum. I would have relied on the farm system.

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