On Shaun Marcum

So Shaun Marcum signed with the Mets today, and I’m not in the least bit upset about it.

Let’s quickly talk about how the Brewers evaluate injury risk in pitchers. From an illuminating article in November:

The Brewers assess that risk on a five-point scale, with one being “pristine” and five being “stay away.” In at least one instance last winter, the Brewers were right on the cusp of making an offer to a free agent when Caplinger’s medical assessment convinced them otherwise

Its a great article, you should read it if you haven’t. I have zero medical training or science background but after reading that article thought, damn, the Brewers are putting a lot of resources into pitcher health, both in evaluating potential signings and keeping their own pitchers healthy.

So we can assume the Brewers put Marcum through this evaluation and have a lot of information on the risk/reward, and were not interested. That’s fine but its no fun to stop there, so let’s look at it from a casual fan standpoint and speculate!

First, there’s the 2009 TJ surgery. That in itself not a huge issue and certainly wasn’t anything that made the Brewers hesitate when trading their top prospect for Marcum in 2011. But the guy has a history.

Second, there’s the Marcum collapse at the end of 2011. Never fully explained, and I think its because no one really knows, he just fell apart. That’s certainly odd, and if its a one year abberation I think we can maybe look past it, but….

Third, there’s the weirdness last year and I think that’s one of the main drivers on the Brewers decision to part ways. Marcum had been pitching pretty well, and on June 14th pitched into the 8th inning in a game against the Royals.

Then he complained of right elbow soreness. No one seemed to really know what was going on. Here’s Roenicke 4 days after the Royals game:

“I’m hoping it’s just a start. I know two years ago he missed a start, I think, in the middle of the season with Toronto, and hopefully that’s what we’re talking about.”

After a month of almost no real progress or public comments about what is actually wrong with Marcum, the Brewers move him to the 60 Day DL on July 29th, 6 weeks after the mysterious injury. Three days later, the Brewers talk about his great bullpen sessions:

“Marcum, outstanding bullpen,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “Threw everything, all his off-speed stuff. Felt great.”

This was a few days after the Greinke trade and the Brewers were clearly in sell mode and perhaps trying to drive up his value before the end of August waiver trade deadline. It would be 10 more days until Marcum would make a rehab start. He would make 3 starts over the next 2 weeks (12 total innings) and finally join the Brewers rotation on August 25th.

Things didn’t really go well when he came back from the injury, opposing hitters went .279/.343/.473 against him. Not exactly a strong return or a confidence boost going into next year.

But why not take a shot at him? The Brewers pitching is weak!

This is the most common question, and its certainly a valid one. For me it breaks down to 2 important points:

  1. The Brewers take great effort to effort to evaluate pitchers and pitching injuries. I like when my favorite team makes data driven decisions and hires really smart people to try and get a competitive advantage. Its pretty much what they are doing here.
  2. What in the world happened to Marcum after that June 14th start? I think you have to view Marcum differently after that start. I’m not moved by “He had a great ERA and pitched many innings with the Brewers” argument, because I don’t think it matters all that much post-injury.

Taking into account #1 and #2, asking the Brewers to be the top bidder for Marcum’s services seems foolish. Marcum getting $4m seems to indicate most other teams had similar reservations that the Brewers had, and all of those teams had less information than the Brewers.

The pitching for 2013 is a question mark (to put it mildly), but I don’t think the solution is to sign guys your medical team has red flagged or go against the data because you have fond memories of Marcum pitching well.

Marcum may pitch well for the Mets, but the process the Brewers used here is correct and I have no problem with Marcum taking his services elsewhere.

One thought on “On Shaun Marcum

  1. I agree on the point that evaluating in uncommon ways is commendable but to suggest the Brewers had more info is a little far fetched. Every team has access to a player’s medical records and before signing a guy would get a physical. I’m not saying the Brewers didn’t do the right thing but the fact is they had the same info as everyone else but simply did a (potentially) better job evaluating the given facts.

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