By most objective measures Shaun Marcum didn't have a *bad* season, just a disappointing one.
MVBrewers is a player-by-player look at the most valuable members of the 2012 Brewers, as voted on by you. Here's our top ten:
The series now continues with Honorable Mentions, to cover some of the Brewers we've missed. This is the fifth installment in that segment. You can see all the player profiles in the Most Valuable Brewers 2012 section. The series continues tomorrow with the next Honorable Mention.
From March through about September 5 of 2011, Shaun Marcum was a pitcher a lot of us were excited about. He posted a 3.11 ERA over his first 29 starts, walking just 49 batters over 176.1 innings (2.5 per nine innings) and while he rarely pitched deep into games, he consistently gave the Brewers a good chance to win.
His last seven starts of the 2011 season, however, told an entirely different story. Marcum tripped up a bit en route to a 6.66 ERA over his final four regular season starts and well into a full-out free fall in the playoffs, allowing a combined 16 runs over three appearances. All three were, of course, Brewer losses.
With free agency looming Marcum had 2012 as a last chance to prove his late-season fade was a fluke and he was a pitcher worth committing to for the long term. Instead, his season just raised more questions.
Marcum got off to an underappreciated great start in 2012, posting a 3.39 ERA over his first 13 appearances. Following a very good start on June 14, though, he was put on the shelf with tightness in his elbow. He was only supposed to miss a start or two, but wouldn't pitch in the big leagues again until August 25.
When he finally did come back, Marcum's performance was still somewhat dismal. He struggled mightily in his first five starts after coming off the DL, pitching into the sixth inning just one time and generally looking like a guy who still wasn't near full strength. He righted the ship a bit with three straight quality starts to close out the season, but the question marks about his health remain.
Marcum has three issues of varying significance facing him as he hits free agency. First, his fastball velocity is very low. His average heater clocked in at just 86.5 mph this season, down from 86.9 last year and 87.1 in his final year with Toronto. He threw his fastball just 30% of the time in 2012, instead relying heavily on a mix of his cutter, changeup, curve and slider. Looking at his mix of breaking pitches makes my elbow hurt.
Second, his "mystery ailment" from 2012 is probably going to be held against him. Marcum missed a significant amount of time this season with an ailment that was never really fully identified, and may or may not be fixed. Marcum's medical records may be popular offseason reading material for potentially interested GMs. It's reasonable to wonder if he'll be able to make 30 starts next year.
Finally, even when Marcum is pitching well his inability to work deep into games means his starts are often long bullpen games. Marcum recorded just two outs in the eighth inning all season (both in the last start before he went on the DL),and pitched a quality start in a game the Brewers went on to lose eleven times over two seasons in Milwaukee. In nine of those eleven games he had thrown 105 pitches or less when he came out.
Adding insult to injury, Marcum and the Brewers were outdueled by Edinson Volquez and the Padres on May 1. The loss wasn't Marcum's fault, though, as he kept the Padres off the board and allowed just three hits over seven innings. He walked four and struck out six in the game.
Marcum is a free agent this winter for the first time in his career. The Brewers decided not to give him a one year, $13.3 million qualifying offer so they won't be compensated if he signs elsewhere. FanGraphs' crowdsourced predictions have him getting two years and $20 million.