Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jason Marquis Pumpkin Watch

Jason Marquis continued his totally unexpected fast start last night, pitching a gem. For the season, that brings him to 5-1, with a 1.70 ERA. This after stinking up the joint and being left off the Cards' post-season roster last year. While I have little doubt that starting today we will see columns talking about Larry Rothschild pep-talks, a change of scenery and all manner of other epiphanies, there's a pretty good argument that Marquis has simply been a lucky dog thus far:


He's still striking people out at the same putrid pace he was last year, which is below his slightly less putrid career rates. He's walking slightly fewer people than last year and his career rates, but not enough to account for his dramatically improved results.

The real reason he's doing so much better, it would seem, is that he's giving up close to half the hits on balls in play that he did last year. I'm no DIPS expert, but smarter folks who are suggest that allowing fewer hits is a function of luck and defense. No one has yet to quantify luck, but the Cubs have given up way fewer errors than almost any other team so far this year.

The fewer homers allowed -- which DIPS suggests is under a pitcher's control -- seems puzzling in light of the fact that they are obviously not the result of Marquis striking more guys out. I'll leave it to smarter people than me to figure that one out (seriously, if someone has any thoughts about this, shoot me an email), but for the time being I'm skeptical that Marquis has somehow found the secret of tater prevention.

The home run caveat aside, I'm not convinced that Marquis results will continue to hold up as the season progresses, but even if they do, I'm not prepared to say that such results will be attributable to Marquis somehow "figuring it out."