The Yankees have five starting pitchers already, but should they seek to upgrade their rotation, Marcus Stroman is one of the best available options on the market this summer. The 28-year-old right-hander might not come cheap, but he’s under control through the 2020 season and would undoubtedly bolster the Yankee rotation for the next year and a half.
Stroman isn’t a typical starter, per se. Technically, Statcast says he throws six different pitches, but he only throws three of them with any regularity -- his sinker, slider, and cutter. However, he does mix in changeups, curveballs, and four seamers from time-to-time. He’s pretty formulaic in his approach with those three pitches. Generally, he keeps his sinker down and in on his arm side:
Marcus Stroman's 94mph Sinker moves like a Changeup. pic.twitter.com/XOlIs1AgIo— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 18, 2017
He usually throws his cutter and slider to the opposite side of the plate. He’ll go up in the zone with the cutter but keeps his slider down and in to lefties.
Marcus Stroman, Filthy 86mph Slider/Messing with Timing. pic.twitter.com/1Q983OskXK— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 20, 2019
As Rob Friedman pointed out, Stroman was messing with his timing with that slider, which, after a quick Twitter search, seems like something he’s done quite a bit this year. Whatever Stroman is doing this year, it’s working. He was just named to his first All-Star team and is atop the league’s leaderboards in a couple of key pitching categories. The best thing about Stroman is that he keeps the ball in the ballpark, which is definitely not something many pitchers can do in 2019. Prior to Thursday’s games, he sported the 10th-best homer rate in the league at 0.81 HR/9.
Stroman keeps the ball out of the air because he’s primarily a sinkerballer. With that pitch, he generates a pretty unreal groundball rate. His career groundball rate is 61.8%, and he’s currently sporting about a 58% figure this season, which is the second-highest mark in the league. To put those figures into perspective, the league average groundball rate is 45.5%, and Masahiro Tanaka leads Yankee starters with a 47.6% groundball rate. If the Yankees deal for Stroman he would automatically become the best starter at generating groundballs and limiting home runs.
Obviously, strikeouts and walks factor into the overall equation for pitchers. Stroman isn’t a big-time strikeout pitcher. His 7.2 K/9 is lower than league average, which definitely isn’t ideal. Still, it doesn’t kill Stroman’s general effectiveness on the hill. The statistics wOBA and xwOBA measure a pitcher’s performance (wOBA) and expected performance (xwOBA) given their strikeouts, walks, and quality of contact against them. Those statistics show us that not only is Stroman once again near the top of the league but would also be the best in the Yankees’ current rotation.
Comparatively speaking, Domingo German leads the Yankees with a .272 wOBA and is better than Stroman’s .295. However, German’s xwOBA is .302, meaning it wouldn’t be a shock if he regressed a little, whereas the opposite is true for Stroman. His .286 xwOBA indicates his numbers (think ERA) could even improve if he continues to pitch at the level he’s at now.
This is obviously the time of year for whispers and rumors, and those seem to indicate the price tag for Stroman is high. And why wouldn’t it be? He’s an All-Star and is under contract through next season. That said, the Yankees are a win-now team, and adding Stroman is a win-now move. His strengths are not strengths the Yankees’ pitching staff currently has. He provides a different look, and all indications seem to point Stroman wanting to be in New York. He recently told Lindsey Adler of The Athletic:
I’m from New York and I’m a New York boy. That kind of says everything for itself… New York’s like the Mecca of the world, right? I love excitement. I love bright lights. I love competition. I love pressure. I’ve always loved pitching here even though I haven’t necessarily pitched well here. I’ve always enjoyed it.
If you can’t beat them, join them, right? For what it’s worth, Stroman is my go-to trade target this month. He’ll likely be cheaper than Matthew Boyd or Luis Castillo, better than Madison Baumgarner, and more available than Noah Syndergaard or Max Scherzer.