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Ever hear of Seam Shifted Wake (SSW)?
If not, pay attention because new Cubs ace Marcus Stroman owns SSW.
SSW is a term used to describe a baseball that generates additional movement in an unexpected way. Tommy Hottovy talked in detail about SSW, and Cubs pitchers Kyle Hendricks, Adbert Alzolay, and Tommy Nance are just a few notable SSW savants.
The Cubs latest SSW savant is Marcus Stroman, whose sinker had the most SSW in 2021.
Indeed, Stroman’s sinker SSW (i.e., deviation from expected movement) was tops in MLB, ahead of Sonny Gray and Adam Ottovino — two pitchers who are known for having exceptional stuff.
The Cubs signed Stroman in December to a three-year, $71 million contract for 2.5-3.0 WAR. But there’s so much more potential. Within the realm of possibility is a version of Stroman who dramatically exceeds those 2.5-3.0 WAR projections.
One way Stroman maximizes his value is with sinker adjustments. He threw 1,159 sinkers in 2021 — which made up 42 percent of his total pitches — to the lower part of the zone. As discussed in an earlier CHGO post, Hottovy has encouraged pitchers with SSW to throw sinkers to the higher part of the zone. These unorthodox, high sinkers will act as changeups, to a degree.
Although Stroman rarely elevated sinkers last season, sinker elevation significantly predicted value against right-handed batters. This suggests Stroman’s WAR might increase by throwing sinkers higher in the zone, in part because he could generate more whiffs and weaker contact.
Stroman’s 2.5-3.0 WAR projections don’t consider rapid adjustments. If recent Cubs history repeats, Hottovy will almost certainly adjust and elevate Stroman’s sinker. The ultimate result might be a net negative and the entire idea scrapped, but the alternative is the potential value of a bona fide ace.
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