Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Light at the End of the Season: Toronto Blue Jays Extend Marco Estrada

Jays From the Couch Takes a Look at the Toronto Blue Jays Extending Marco Estrada into 2018.

 

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It’s been a tough year in Toronto Blue Jays land.

 

Now in late September, the team is just 71-80, two games into the basement behind the equally disappointing Baltimore Orioles. There have, however, been some highlights in 2017. We had Chris Coghlan’s jump. The continued development of Marcus Stroman. The break out of Justin Smoak.

 

And Marco Estrada‘s change-up:

 

 

Since 2015, Marco Estrada has been dropping devastating change-ups like the one we see above, and late last night, JP Morosi broke the news that Toronto fans will be getting at least one more year of that beautiful pitch (and three others!)

 

 

So there it is. Marco Estrada, fan favourite and 2.5 bWAR player, will be hanging around Toronto for at least one more season and making a cool and certainly not limiting $13 Million. Blue Jays fans are seemingly thrilled, and why not, given his excellent track record over his three-year Blue Jays career:

 

Standard Pitching
Year Tm W L ERA G GS GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2015 TOR 13 8 3.13 34 28 3 0 181.0 134 67 63 24 55 131 2 131 4.40 1.044 6.7 1.2 2.7 6.5 2.38
2016 TOR 9 9 3.48 29 29 0 0 176.0 132 73 68 23 65 165 5 122 4.15 1.119 6.8 1.2 3.3 8.4 2.54
2017 TOR 9 8 4.84 31 31 0 0 176.2 174 95 95 29 67 170 1 95 4.54 1.364 8.9 1.5 3.4 8.7 2.54
10 Y 10 Y 54 51 4.02 248 159 22 0 1074.2 935 507 480 161 333 974 24 103 4.24 1.180 7.8 1.3 2.8 8.2 2.92
162 162 9 9 4.02 41 27 4 0 180 156 85 80 27 56 163 4 103 4.24 1.180 7.8 1.3 2.8 8.2 2.92
MIL MIL 23 25 4.11 139 70 15 0 521.0 472 253 238 80 137 489 15 96 4.04 1.169 8.2 1.4 2.4 8.4 3.57
TOR TOR 31 25 3.81 94 88 3 0 533.2 440 235 226 76 187 466 8 113 4.36 1.175 7.4 1.3 3.2 7.9 2.49
WSN WSN 0 1 7.20 15 1 4 0 20.0 23 19 16 5 9 19 1 62 6.12 1.600 10.4 2.3 4.1 8.6 2.11
NL ( NL ( 23 26 4.23 154 71 19 0 541.0 495 272 254 85 146 508 16 93 4.11 1.185 8.2 1.4 2.4 8.5 3.48
AL ( AL ( 31 25 3.81 94 88 3 0 533.2 440 235 226 76 187 466 8 113 4.36 1.175 7.4 1.3 3.2 7.9 2.49
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/20/2017.

 

From 2015-2017 Estrada has amassed a 3.81 ERA and 31-25 record for the Jays, earning a K/9 mark of 7.9 due mostly to one of the best change-ups in baseball, which he uses at a whopping 29.7% of the time. Unlike most pitchers who use a change-up to get weak contact after a fastball or to generate ground balls, Estrada does it a different way, inducing a ton of pop-fly outs and whiffs (189 whiffs in a sample of 841.) Of course, the change-up plays up his inoffensive fastball, producing just a .206 BAA.

 

And while 2017 has shown his ERA jump a bit (more on that later), he’s still producing more and more weak contact, as we can see with this chart from the always-excellent Baseball Savant:

 

 

Two things that will almost always guarantee success in this game: weak contact and a low walk rate. Estrada has seen his BB/9 rise since he’s been a Blue Jay, but as the BB/9 has climbed from 2.7 to 3.4, his K/9 has gone up from 6.5 to 8.7, along with a dip in exit velocity. Jam all those factors together, and you’ve got a pitcher maturing in his mid-30’s and with relatively low mileage on his arm due to some early-career struggles.

 

So what about that somewhat ugly 4.84 ERA in 2017? Easy: his midsummer cold stretch in June and July. Through those two months, Estrada went 0-5 and saw his ERA rocket from a svelte 3.86 on July 1st to a bloated 5.52 at its high-water mark on July 21st. Since then, though, Estrada has allowed six runs twice, but has also lowered his ERA over half of a run to 4.84, and doing so against tough competition, making seven of those 12 starts against teams currently holding playoff seeds.

 

The signing of Marco Estrada for another season seems to have full support of the management, player, and unsurprisingly, the majority of the fan base. As a fan favorite the Jays faithful will continue to come to the park in 2018, and having a solid No. 3 (at best) starter in 2018 is one less move the team will have to make in what could be an active offseason. The team can now either seek a lower-end suite of pitchers for rotation depth, knowing that Estrada will likely give them 20+ starts in 2018 while young arms like Ryan Borucki, Conner Greene and Sean Reid-Foley develop in New Hampshire and Buffalo.

 

Overall, the goal is a win-win for everyone, and the team maintains flexibility going into the offseason.

 

 

 

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*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

 

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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.

Roy-Z

Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.