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The Season that Was: Marco Estrada

Taking a look at Marco Estrada's 2015 season.

I hope you enjoyed the season as much as we enjoyed watching you Marco.
I hope you enjoyed the season as much as we enjoyed watching you Marco.
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays trade for Marco Estrada wasn't universally loved, when it happened a year ago. In our poll, a couple of days after trade, 70% of us were unhappy with the trade.

It was understandable. Estrada was 31 years old. He didn't have a track record. He bounced back and forth between starter and reliever. In 2014 he pitched his most innings ever, in the majors, and it was still only 150. He also led the league in home runs allowed, which was a bit of a red flag for us, since he was coming into the AL East, and playing in a park that was a lot more homer friendly.

And we weren't sure how the Jays planned to use him. Would he be a reliever? Would he be a starter? Would we even keep him? Would he be traded? Non-tendered? Nick took a look at the possibilities, back a year ago today.

He was also in the last year of team control, so if things went well, we weren't sure to keep him.

Things went well.

Year   Age  W L  ERA  G GS GF CG    IP   H ER HR BB  SO ERA+ SO/W
2015    31 13 8 3.13 34 28  3  0 181.0 134 63 24 55 131  126 2.38

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Baseball Reference credits him with a 3.6 WAR, easily the best mark of his career. Fangraphs was a little less thrilled, giving him a 1.8 WAR, giving him a value of $14.6 million to the Jays, making his $3.9 million salary a huge bargain.

He had a .216 BABIP, down from .257 in 2014. It might not be sustainable. but he seemed to be good at getting soft contact. He gave up fewer line drives than last year (15.5% down from 17.8), about the same number of ground balls (32.2% down from 32.7) and a few more fly balls (52.3% up from 49.5). The best news was that much fewer of his fly balls left the park (8.7%, down from 13.2).

His FIP (4.40) and xFIP (4.93) were both well about his ERA (3.13). His strikeout rate was down a bit (18.1% down from 20.4) and walk rate was up a bit (7.6% from 7.1) compared to 2014.

Lefties and righties hit Marco much the same. Right-handed batters hit .204/.275/.351 and left-handers hit .203/.264/.374 against him.

He was a little bit better at home (6-4, 2.95 ERA, batters hit .195/.261/.349) than on the road (7-4, 3.29, batters hit .210/.275/.378).

Estrada was better in the second half of the season (7-3, 2.78 ERA, batters hit .183/249/.355) than in the first half of the season (6-5, 3.52 ERA, batters hit .223/.288/.373).

Marco Estrada by month:

  • April: 1-0, 0.84 ERA, in 6 relief appearances. Batters hit .114/.244/.229.
  • May: 0-3, 5.02 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .261/.320/.452.
  • June: 4-1, 3.25 ERA in 6 starts. Batters hit .195/.265/.338.
  • July: 3-2, 3.38 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .250/.288/.375.
  • August: 3-2, 2.05 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .163/.258/.327.
  • Sept/Oct: 2-0, 2.96 ERA in 7 starts. Batters hit .181/.241/.369.

And he had a great postseason, going 2-1, with a 2.33 ERA in 3 starts. His start in game 5 of the ALCS was one of the best starts, in a must win game, as you'll ever see, 7.2 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts, in a game that we really needed.

His longest win streak was 4 games, from June 2 to June 19. His longest losing streak was 3 games, from May 5 to May 22, when he was first moved to the rotation.

His best start, by GameScore was on June 24, on the road against the Rays, getting 90. He went 8.2 innings, allowing 2 hits, no walks with 10 strikeouts. He didn't allow his first hit until 1 out in the 8th. His GameScore for game 5 of the ALCS was 73. His worst score was his July 24 start against the Mariners, in Seattle. He pitched 4 innings, 8 hits, 5 earned, 3 walks, with 4 strikeouts.

I think we got the best we could have expected out of Estrada. He started the season in the bullpen and was very good in fairly low leverage spots. I think he would have gained Gibbon's trust and moved into higher leverage spots, but then the rotation basically fell apart and he was needed there.

It took him about a month of bad starts in May, before he started looking terrific as a starting pitcher. From June 2nd on he was 12-5 with a 2.92 ERA. He was a lot of fun to watch. We even had a couple of near misses on no-hitters.

I thought that Gibbons was very careful with him, seemly having a pretty quick hook, but then, Marco didn't seem to lose much as his pitch count went up. Baseball Reference has his OPS at .666 through his first 25 pitches, .530 from pitch 26 to 50, .653 from 51 to 75 and .695 from 76 to 100. He didn't seem to lose a lot as he tired. But I think Gibby did a good job with him.

Yeah, it does kind of worry me that his FIP and xFIP are so much higher than his ERA, perhaps he is one of those guys the FIP just doesn't work. He was getting a lot of soft contact, making it easy for the defense to do the work behind him.

But then, it's a breakout season at 31, how likely is it that this level of performance is the new normal. And, coming into his age 32 season, if this is his ability, how many years can he keep it up. How well will he age? Would you want to be betting that he is going to continue to be this good into his mid-30's? His strikeout rate has dropped in each of the last 3 years, going from 9.3 k/9 to 8.3 to 7.6 to 6.5 last year. That's a trend that you don't want to see continue.

Mark Shapiro has an interesting decision to make. You want to five him a Qualifying Offer? $15.8 million seems like a lot of money for Marco. That's a pretty big raise from the $3.9 million he made last year. You want to give him a 3-year deal? $10 to 12 million a year? That brings him to age 35. After watching him in the playoffs, I have to think that someone would be willing to chance giving him 3 years. Do you let him go? We have a couple of open spots in the rotation, if not Estrada, who?

I don't really know the answer, I'd offer him 3 years, but if $10 million, or so, wasn't enough, I'd likely let him go. What say you?