Jason Marquis Under the Radar

Jason Marquis moved into the rotation full time after arriving in St. Louis. In his first two season there he posted fabulous ERAs of 3.71 and 4.13 but they were both giant smoke screens. His FIPs those two years were 4.55 and 4.95 and his strikeout rate took a very troubling drop to the mid-4 range. tRA, a method of calculating how many runs a pitcher would be expected to allow in front of a neutral defense and park based on his FIP components and batted ball profile says that Marquis benefited from a total of 38 missing runs in 2004 and 2005.

Then 2006 came around and Marquis’ luck diminished and he got notably worse. His 6.02 ERA was only slightly worse than his 5.90 FIP as his strikeout to walk numbers approached parity. His home runs allowed shot up thanks to a whopping nine point drop in his ground ball rate. In fact, his home run per fly ball actually dropped in 2006.

Despite all of that, Jason Marquis signed perhaps the dumbest three-year, $21-million contract ever with the Cubs after the 2006 season. It was unfathomable how dumb that contract was based on past performance. Curiously though, Marquis somehow pitched up to the contract in Chicago. His ground balls returned somewhat and his swinging strike rate which had fallen from from 7.4% to 6.1% to 5.4% while in St. Louis averaged 6.6% in Chicago. He did not turn into a good pitcher by any means, he was still below average, but he did manage to flirt with average, posting FIPs of 4.99 and 4.61.

In total, Marquis was worth $15.1 million in value in Chicago while being paid $13.2 million on his back loaded contract. This winter he was dumped off to Colorado for Luis Vizcaino in a salary move. All Marquis has done is get even better in Coors, now solidly above average with a FIP of 4.28 and enough innings to be worth $6.1 in value, bringing his three-year total already to $21.2 million, a net positive.

Marquis has thus far maintained his results on getting hitters to swing on pitches outside the zone more often that he flashed last year for the first time and he has paired his slightly improved strikeout to walk rate with a return in force of his ground ball ratio leading to another drop in home runs allowed. Marquis’ results this year have been legitimate, the question will be if he can maintain them and then what if, being just 31 at the end of the year, what kind of contract he might find himself worth this winter.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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It can’t have been the “dumbest contract ever” if the value of his performance has exceeded the value he’s been paid over these last three years, even if it did look very bad when he signed it.


I think he meant that at the time it was signed it was considered one of the dumbest contracts.