This off-season will be no different than any other off-season as starting pitchers coming off of solid seasons will attempt to parlay this success into multi-year contracts.
Jason Marquis is one of those pitchers. He is currently cutting it close on a sub-4.00 ERA (3.98) and it will be interesting to see what the difference in cash given from a MLB club will be if he slides above that mark or stays below it. Of course, anyone with any basic sabermetric knowledge would not a pay a dime more for him based on that factor alone. Yes, he is working on perhaps the best season of his career. He is just shy of setting career highs in both innings pitched and ERA. The innings pitched mark is what will garner most of the interest in him having made no fewer than 28 starts in a single season for each of the past six years. ERA, as we all well know, is not a mark of skill-alone, but contains quite a bit of noise including defensive abilities and whether inherited runners score or not to name a few items. Wins of course are more the product of a team's offense than any other factor – so a team paying for his a sub 4.00 ERA, should he end the season with it, and 15 or more wins, is paying for the wrong things.
Instead his contract should be primarily focused on his strikeout rates and his reliance on his defense as someone who has no produced a 6.0+ K/9 since 2004 and to compound it has only once during that time period posted a 5+ K/9 (5.1 in 2007). Marquis is very reliant on the ground-ball and more so this season creating them over 55|PERCENT| of the time, but he has average 50|PERCENT| of the time over his career. A team considering signing him needs to really consider this factor before bringing him on board. It needs also to be noted that Marquis is not a control artist like many other ground-ball pitchers owning a career 3.5 BB/9 and posting just a 3.2 this season. Pitcher's of Marquis' ilk typically need to be perfect with their spotting of the ball and given his mediocre control, it is not surprising to discover his batting average on balls in play is suppressed to a 2.87. When one considers that ground-ball pitcher's are typically higher than the typical .300 regression mark, it compounds some negative expectations for the 2010 season. One outlier in Marquis's line has been his first pitch strike efficiency of 54.5|PERCENT|. This is the lowest mark of his career and is impressive that a pitcher having one of his best seasons of his career is getting ahead in the count the least often he ever has.
Marquis does a lot of things well and is likely to get a decent contract based on his ability to rack up innings, but he still in my mind remains an end-game $1 to $5 buy at best in NL only leagues and potentially worse if he signs with a team that has poor infield defense. For example, there have been rumors of him signing with his hometown Mets. Unless Reyes is back and they sign defensive-oriented first baseman, that is probably not a good decision for him or the Mets and for teams with similar compositions.