We have done this little exercise a few times over the years, each time changing the ranking method. I’m less interested in the exact order than in talking about the players. Especially in the back end here, the differences between 40 and 75 are pretty small. This time, I tried to give some bonus points for players that had good playoff showings, and I zeroed out any negative WAR seasons, figuring playing a guy who had a negative WAR was more on the manager than the player. I also gave bonuses for players seasons of 5+ WAR.
There is also always the issue of comparing a guy who had 1 or 2 terrific seasons with guys who had several more average seasons.
If all goes well, we’ll do a bunch of ‘just missed out after getting to the top of the list.
Shaun Michal Marcum | SP | 2005 - 2010
Let’s start with a favorite of mine.
Shaun Marcum was born December 14, 1981, in Kansas City, Missouri. The Blue Jays drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2003 amateur draft out of Missouri State University. He moved up our minor league system quickly. By 2005 he made it to Triple-A and was a September call up, getting into 5 games in relief without giving up an earned run in 8 innings.
In 2006 Shaun started the season in Syracuse. He had a couple of early-season stints with the Jays, then was called up to the majors for good in early July. By the middle of the month, Shaun was given Ty Taubenheim’s spot in the starting rotation and held it for the rest of the year. He finished 3-4, with a 5.06 ERA, in 21 games, 14 starts. In 78.1 innings, he gave up 87 hits, 38 walks, with 65 strikeouts.
At the start of the 2007 season, Marcum was back in the bullpen (the Jays were trying Tomo Ohka, Gustavo Chacin and Josh Tower in the back of the rotation),but by mid-May, John Gibbons realized we weren’t going to go anywhere with that trio. Shaun made his first start of the season on May 13, pitching 6 hitless innings against the Tampa Bay (at that time) Devil Rays. He gave up 3 walks and had 7 strikeouts throwing 78 pitches (the old-timer in me wonders how you can take a guy throwing a no-hitter out of the game at 78 pitches, but it was his first start after a month plus in the pen). We would go on to lose the game 2-1. Jason Frasor gave up a home run to Carlos Pena and Brian Tallet gave up an unearned run in the 9th, helped along by a Ryan Roberts error. If you remember anything about Ryan Roberts, you are a better man than I.
He went 12-6, with a 4.13 ERA, in 38 games, 25 stars. In 159 innings, he gave up 149 hits, 49 walks, with 122 strikeouts. The lousy number was the 27 home runs. That first start might have been his best, but he had 4 where he gave up 2 runs or less. He went 8 innings, allowing 2 hits, one a Jermaine Dye home run in a 4-1 win over the White Sox on July 29.
Shawn finally started a season in the rotation in 2008. He did well until about the end of June, when he missed about a month with “strained ligaments.” Shaun had a visit to Dr. Andrews, who said it wasn’t serious. He firmly established himself as a good starter with a 9-7 record and a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts on the season.
Unfortunately season ended badly, Shawn left his September 18th start with elbow pain and ended up having Tommy John surgery costing him his 2009 season. A lot of us will remember Shaun talking to the press after he heard that he needed surgery. Shaun was very sad. I felt that Cito Gaston could have treated him a little more gently when he returned from the injury in June, but then it is impossible to know if that caused the injury.
Marcum made a few starts in the minors at the end of the 2009 season, then came into 2010 as the leader of a young pitching staff, since we traded Roy Halladay in the off-season. Marcum was our opening day starter after Doc had that job for the previous seven years. He had a decent start, 7 innings, 2 hits, 3 earned, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, and 1 hit batter against the Rangers. Unfortunately, the walk he gave up was followed by the only single (by Vladimir Guerrero Sr.) he would give and then a Nelson Cruz home run. The Jays lost the game. Jason Frasor gave up 2 runs in the nine.
His best game of the season was a complete game one-hitter against the A’s in August. The one hit was a Conor Jackson home run.
2010 turned out to be Shaun’s best season with Jays. He set career highs in wins (13), starts (31), innings (200.2), and strikeouts (165). Fangraphs credited him with a 3.6 WAR.
After the season, on December 6 Alex Anthopoulos traded Marcum to the Brewers for Brett Lawrie. At first, it seemed to be one of those trades that worked out for both teams. Marcum and the Brewers made it to the playoffs, but we were happy to have Lawrie’s potential. Marcum didn’t have a good time of it in the playoffs. He went 0-3 in 3 starts with a 14.90 ERA. It looked like he had a tired arm.
In the end, the trade didn’t work well for either team, but we managed to get the A’s to give us Josh Donaldson for Lawrie, so I’m counting the trade as a win.
Marcum pitched a second season for the Brewers. In his two seasons with Milwaukee, he had a 20-11 record and a 3.60 ERA. Next he went to the Mets, going 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 14 games, 12 starts. He signed with Cleveland after that but missed all of 2013 with more shoulder troubles. He got into 7 games, 6 starts for them in 2015, but they released him in the middle of June.
Career Marcum was 61-48 with a 3.93 ERA in 195 games, 167 starts. He didn’t walk many, 2.8 per nine innings, but he gave up more than his share of home runs.
He was also excellent on defense. You could rarely get through a Marcum game on TV without hearing that he was a shortstop in college. And he could swing the bat:
Well, not really. That is cherry-picking Shaun’s one career home run. In his three seasons in the NL, he hit .130. There is a fair bit of video of him making good defensive plays, but instead, I show his one home run.
Marcum will always be one of my favorite pitchers. You have to like a guy that can be successful without a mid-90s fastball. Shaun threw high 80’s, but had a great changeup and some breaking stuff. He’s a fly ball pitcher, so he gives up his share of home runs but he battles. Marcum got by on guts and guile. He would be comparable to Marco Estrada, but with more elbow troubles.
Maybe he came to baseball a decade too early. Managers are more careful with pitchers these days. Maybe he could have avoided the elbow troubles that plagued him. Like many of the guys on the back of this list, the sad words are ‘what could have been’.
Since retiring, he has been a pitching coach for a couple of college teams. He is married and has two sons, Landon and Ryne (named after Ryne Sandberg).
ERA (>500 innings): 11th, 3.85
Wins: 23rd, 37
Win-Loss %: 5th, .597
Hits per 9 innings: 11th, 8.346
Walks per 9: 10th, 2.797
Strikeouts per 9: 12th, 7.282
Strikeouts: 23rd, 479
Games started: 20th, 95