Entering the 2011 season, the Milwaukee Brewers' pitching staff appears to be all about Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo and for good reason. The Brewers gave up four of their organization's best young talents to bring the 2009 AL Cy Young winner to Milwaukee. Likewise, Gallardo has blossomed into one of the finest (and most underrated) pitchers in the game having posted back-to-back 200 strikeout seasons.
However, if the Brewers are to make a push to the playoffs in 2011, much of the credit will go to the third of their aces that has received virtually no attention since being acquired from the Blue Jays last month: Shaun Marcum.
Marcum is no stranger to being overshadowed. That will happen quite easily when you're pitching on the same staff as Roy Halladay for four seasons. That was followed up by missing the entire 2009 season thanks to Tommy John season.
2010 proved to be the coming out party for Marcum. He served as the Opening Day starter for the Jays and finished the season with a 13-8 record and a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio, WHIP, and walks per nine innings were all better than either Greinke or Gallardo. Marcum put up his numbers all while pitching in the toughest division in baseball. This year, he can replace starts against the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox with starts against the Astros, Cubs, and Pirates. Despite finishing fourth in their division, the Blue Jays won 85 games in 2010, a total that cannot be dismissed, especially against the level of competition they faced.
Despite missing all of 2009, Marcum proved to be a workhorse for Toronto. Only eight times did he pitch fewer than six innings, including his first nine starts of the year and eight of his final nine starts.
Baseball is a game about match-ups. Last season, Marcum was consistently matched up against the opposing team's ace, but he'll face many team's third, fourth, or fifth starter this year. In fact, there is a chance he could serve as the team's fourth starter to break up the back-to-back throwing of lefties Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson.
His offensive support will be virtually identical as well. The Jays scored only five more runs over the course of the season than the Brewers. Similarly, the defense for both teams was nearly the same as well. Neither was outstanding but he can do enough on his own to keep his team in the game.
It was Marcum's arrival in Milwaukee that served as one of the main reasons Greinke decided to waive his no-trade clause to be sent to the Brewers. Now he'll be able to showcase his talents for a team that has a much easier road to the playoffs.
Shaun Marcum doesn't have the name recognition to excite the fans and drive up ticket sales like Greinke, nor does he have a following in Milwaukee like Gallardo, but he may prove the most valuable of the trio in the team's effort for postseason play in 2011.
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