The Washington Nationals continued their battle against the Baltimore Orioles for this offseasons' title of mediocre team overpaying for talent. In their latest attempt for the crown, the Nationals signed Jason Marquis to a two-year deal worth $15 million or just slightly under what they paid for uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg.
After seasons of working with Dave Duncan and Bob Apodaca, Marquis has become a predominately ground ball pitcher, culminating in a career best 55.6% ground ball rate in 2009. That was good enough for third highest among qualified Major League starters. He also pitched a career high 216 innings and earned his best WAR mark, by far, at 3.8 His 15 wins also tied a personal best and is a likely reason behind his new contract.
Other than his ability to get ground balls with the best of them, Marquis is pretty average. His 2009 ERA of 4.04 was nothing special and that is backed by his 4.10 FIP. His BABIP was inline with career norms as was his K/BB ratio. He doesn't generate many swings and misses with his fastball, although his slider is pretty nifty at doing that. Pitching with Coors Field as his home ballpark, Marquis enjoyed a career low 0.63 HR/9. His HR/FB rate was 4% lower than his career level, but given his ground ball abilities that's not a shock.
Marquis is more of a 2-2.5 WAR pitcher than a 3.8 WAR pitcher. That means he should provide marginal value at $7.5 annually, but much like the Orioles with Mike Gonzalez and Garrett Atkins, for the Nationals you must ask...why? Maybe Marquis pitches really well early on, and a contending team is willing to give up something for him at the trade deadline. Otherwise, the Nationals just took another unnecessary, high priced step towards win #70.