Stroman responded his critics with two consecutive 200-inning seasons.

Duke in the MLB: Marcus Stroman reaches 200 innings for second straight season

The Blue Jays won’t be playing in October, but their fall from grace had nothing to do with anything Marcus Stroman did. 

With four innings of two-run ball Saturday against the Yankees, the ex-Blue Devil star and fourth-year major leaguer eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the second straight season, a career year that could earn him a top-five Cy Young Award finish. A season after getting knocked for a pedestrian 4.37 ERA, the 5-foot-9 right-hander posted a career-best 3.06 ERA, the fourth-best mark in the American League, but the 200-innings tally was what meant most to Stroman. 

"It's been a huge point of emphasis of mine," Stroman said about reaching the milestone. "I know there were big questions from critics, analysts, saying I could never be a durable guy because of my height. Going out there and pitching 200 innings every year is a goal of mine, and being able to get there is extremely gratifying."

A 2014 Baseball America scouting report noted that since 1960, just two right-handers at Stroman's height or shorter had made more than 30 starts. Toronto’s ace made 32 starts last season and 33 this year.

His two complete games were tied for third-best in the American League, behind just Ervin Santana and AL Cy Young contender Corey Kluber. Stroman was strong in the first half this season, but really dialed it up in the second half, posting a 2.76 ERA. 

He rebounded from his unspectacular 2016 with an increased reliance on his slider, which he threw roughly 50 percent more than in the previous year—for good reason. Watch this clip of his slider to strike out Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa to see why: 

The 2012 first round pick also started throwing his changeup nearly three miles per hour slower than in the past, helping him better deceive hitters. 

But Stroman didn’t get the support behind him to pitch in the postseason. The Blue Jays scored the second fewest runs in the American League, in large part due to the rapid declines of former stars Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista. Stroman didn't have much support behind him in the rotation, either—the only other starter with a sub-4.98 ERA was J.A. Happ at 3.53. 

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