COMMENTARY |The New York Mets hoped signing Shaun Marcum to a one-year/$4 million deal would help stabilize the starting rotation. It took him three starts (four appearances) to hit his stride, but the right-hander is finally giving manager Terry Collins what he was looking for.
Marcum didn't make his Mets debut until April 27th against the Philadelphia Phillies due to neck and shoulder issues. He probably came back a little too soon because he could see New York desperately needed starting pitching. Rushing through his rehab wasn't the best idea, as the 31-year-old veteran pitched to a 0-3 record, posting an 8.59 ERA.
In 14.2 innings pitched, Marcum allowed 14 runs on 24 hits, six walks, and 10 strikeouts. Let's just say that his first few times to the mound as a Met weren't very pleasant. He wasn't providing length in his starts to allow the bullpen to stay fresh, and he wasn't spotting his pitches well through the strike zone. With an average fastball velocity in the mid-80s, he needs to have pinpoint accuracy to be successful.
While he still hasn't cracked into the win column in his last three starts (0-2 record), Marcum has completely turned his season around. The type of performances he's recently had are what the Mets were expecting from the right-hander. After not getting through five innings in any of his first three starts, he's pitched at least six innings in his last three.
His performance on May 26th against the Atlanta Braves was his best of the season. He threw a season-high seven innings and allowed two runs on four hits, no walks, with a career-high 12 strikeouts.
Outside of one mistake he left over the plate to Dan Uggla, Marcum was in complete control. At one point in the ballgame, he retired 11 straight Atlanta hitters. We've now watched Marcum's ERA drop from that 8.59 mark to 5.77. Still not pretty, but the downward progression is a welcome sight.
If the lineup can start consistently scoring runs again, the Mets would be able to separate themselves from teams like the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins. Dillon Gee (2-6, 6.34 ERA) still hasn't figured out why he's struggling yet, but Jonathon Niese (3-5, 4.80 ERA) and Jeremy Hefner (0-5, 4.76 ERA) have settled down a bit. Matt Harvey? Well, he's still Matt Harvey.
It's not a coincidence that the rest of the rotation is starting to calm down once Marcum started pitching the way he's capable of. As I've said previously, his veteran presence will help the performance of what is mostly a young starting staff.
The expectation for Marcum coming into this season was not to replace the type of production R.A. Dickey provided in his Cy Young campaign last season. It was more important to eat some innings and alleviate pressure from the bullpen. He's been doing that in his last three starts.
If the 10 starts and 70 innings pitched from Harvey are taken away, Mets starters are only averaging slightly above five innings pitched per start. That unacceptable, and is a major reason why the New York bullpen has put together a 4.77 ERA and 1.37 WHIP this season. They've thrown 158.1 innings and the calendar hasn't even turned to June yet.
New York has enjoyed the success of Matt Harvey, but haven't experienced sustained success because the rest of the rotation hasn't met expectations. With Marcum picking up the pace, it will hopefully have a domino effect on his fellow starters.
Combine that with the eventual promotion of top prospect Zack Wheeler, and the rotation might be rejuvenated enough to start taking positive steps in their development as a unit.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.
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