Insane stats show Marcus Stroman is most exciting pitcher in MLB right now

Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Marcus Stroman is the most exciting pitcher in MLB right now, and some key stats show just how uniquely he’s finding success.

It’s time we talk about how great — and unique — Marcus Stroman has been as the Chicago Cubs No. 1 starting pitcher this season.

We are still far too early in the year to make any claims about season-long awards but with four starts under the belt for most pitchers, comparisons are starting to naturally come to the surface. We should appreciate the pitchers who have come out of the gates with shutdown stuff.

Stroman should be at the top of the list for any conversation having to do with solid pitching among starters, with a 0.75 ERA across four starts.

There’s a lot to appreciate about Stroman in general and his deviation from the “norms” of other starting pitchers. Aesthetically, he wears a durag underneath his hat — and yes, FiveThirtyEight once looked into which durag he pitches best in — and in terms of energy, he brings a toughness and swagger to his starts that you have to love. He stood up to a crazy bettor before his opening day start and kept the receipts. That stuff is fun.

But beyond his apparel and attitude, his pitching arsenal is so different from most starters. Many have a go-to pitch that they use more than half the time and 1-2 other pitches they mix in 15-20% of the time. Then there’s Stroman, whose highest used pitch is just above 40% in use frequency, with six pitches in total thrown at least 15 times this year.

Of the 10 starting pitchers with the highest ERA this season, only one other pitcher has thrown that many different pitches at least 15 times.

He doesn’t quite have the speed of other starters — he has the slowest 4-seamer of any of the 10 — but makes up for it with an overwhelming arsenal that’s tough to deal with at the plate.

From that perspective, he likens more to a Shohei Ohtani, with pizazz instead of sheer force. If starters like Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole are classic symphonies, guys like Ohtani and Stroman are improvised jazz.

That connection with Ohtani might seem far-fetched, but Stroman is living up to the hype and earning his name in that conversation. Again, of those 10 starters with the lowest ERA, here’s how the top 3 shake out for strikeouts on pitches below 90 MPH:

  1. Shohei Ohtani: 20
  2. Marcus Stroman: 18
  3. Shane McClanahan: 16

Ohtani and Stroman are also the only pitchers part of that prestigious group that have yet to allow a single barreled ball this year. Check out how similar he and Ohtani’s 25 and 27 strikeouts, respectively, have been:

Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs
Marcus Stroman strikeout pitch comparison, Chicago Cubs /

Stroman is the only guy getting consistent strikeouts on pitches that look like Ohtani’s.

But interestingly, Stroman throws more like a brunt-speed pitcher when looking for in-play outs.

Stroman has also separated himself as a groundout pitcher, creating 50 field-outs so far this year, in the ballpark with Luis Castillo (55), Sonny Gray (55), and Gerrit Cole (53). Looking at his field-outs, those pitches trend more toward speedy and low spin rate than he does on strikeouts.

Look how he separates from Ohtani here compared to the previous plot, moving toward speed and lower spin rate:

Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs
Marcus Stroman fieldout pitches, Chicago Cubs /

Simply, Stroman is doing it, and he’s not really doing it like anyone else. He’s doing it like himself.

Special thanks: Sam Bornstein’s work was used to assist parts of this article. 

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