Marcus Stroman brings a distinct advantage Yankees rotation missing so far

The Yankees signed Marcus Stroman on January 11, 2024, for two years.
Michael Bennington
Sunday January 14, 2024

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While Marcus Stroman has had both standout and challenging moments at Yankee Stadium, often attributed to encounters with Aaron Judge, his recent signing with the Yankees signifies more than just sharing a clubhouse with the slugger. Marcus Stroman’s expertise in inducing ground balls introduces a distinctive pitching style to the existing rotation, potentially contributing to success in the Bronx.

The two-year, $37 million agreement, finalized on Thursday, not only reunites Marcus Stroman with Judge but also adds a reliable arm with a track record of impressive consistency. Since 2019, his 3.38 ERA ranks 15th among all pitchers, showcasing his undeniable talent.

Yankees get Marcus Stroman’s grounder-generating skills

In contrast to many of the current Yankees starters, Marcus Stroman excels at generating ground balls. While Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon rely on overpowering four-seamers for consistent strikeouts, Nestor Cortes tends to induce fly balls with his slower repertoire, and Clarke Schmidt, in his inaugural year as a starter, leans toward the league-average ground ball and fly ball rates.

However, Marcus Stroman stands out as a ground-ball specialist, nearly rivaling Clay Holmes‘ dominance in that aspect. His 57.4% ground-ball rate in 2023 positioned him in the 94th percentile, second only to Holmes’ exceptional 66.7% (100th percentile).

This data underscores the distinction: Marcus Stroman’s emphasis on inducing grounders contrasts with the Yankees’ rotation, which generally favors fly balls. Schmidt (56th percentile, 43.6% ground-ball rate), Cole (37th percentile, 40.3%), Rodon (2nd percentile, 27.5%), and Cortes (1st percentile, 26.1%) all show varying degrees of preference for fly balls.

The Yankees signed Marcus Stroman on January 11, 2024, for two years.

Marcus Stroman’s unique skill set, combined with the Yankees’ robust infield defense, holds the potential to create a formidable pitching strategy. His ability to prompt ground ball contact, may significantly reduce runs allowed and enhance the effectiveness of the already potent Yankees lineup.

An advantage in the Bronx

Marcus Stroman’s introduction to Yankee Stadium signifies more than just adapting to the short right porch. His pitching style, which excels at inducing ground balls, aligns seamlessly with the Yankees’ robust infield defense and the dimensions of the ballpark, potentially establishing a winning formula in the Bronx.

Examining Marcus Stroman’s career statistics instills confidence. His 15.8% fly-ball rate is notably below the league average (23.5%), and his 0.83 home runs per nine innings rank as the fourth-lowest among pitchers with a minimum of 1,000 innings since 2014, trailing only Jacob deGrom, Gio Gonzalez, and Zack Wheeler. Although his 6.06 ERA in 11 career starts at Yankee Stadium may suggest challenges, it’s essential to note that eight of those home runs allowed were courtesy of Aaron Judge, a matchup he no longer needs to navigate.

Instead, Marcus Stroman will benefit from the presence of an infield defense poised to excel at handling his grounders. In the previous season, the Yankees showcased one of the league’s finest defensive units, led by Gold Glove shortstop Anthony Volpe, who topped defensive metrics across the league. Dansby Swanson, Marcus Stroman’s former teammate, notably led all shortstops in the majors with 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), underscoring the caliber of players surrounding him.

The Yankees‘ strategic positioning also complements Marcus Stroman’s strengths. Their frequent infield shifts, ranked fourth in the league by DRS in 2023, shorten the distance for ground balls to be efficiently fielded.

While Marcus Stroman’s pitch mix, heavily featuring his sinker (46.4% usage), differs from the power arms prevalent in the rest of the rotation, the Yankees have previously found success with similar ground-ball specialists. Michael King, the likely predecessor of Stroman, and numerous elite relievers serve as a testament to the effectiveness of this pitching strategy.

In essence, Marcus Stroman’s skill set seamlessly integrates with the Yankees’ existing strengths. His knack for inducing ground balls, combined with the Yankees’ defensive prowess and strategic shifts, creates a promising recipe for success in the Bronx.

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