clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Blue Jays Musings: Marco Estrada, Rotation Order, Bullpen, Plate Discipline

New, 36 comments
Marco Estrada
Marco Estrada
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Marco Estrada Should Be Valuable

Whether or not Estrada "wins" the fifth spot in the Blue Jays' rotation, he should still provide plenty of value in 2015. Despite a very healthy rotation in 2014, the Blue Jays still gave a combined seventeen starts to Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow and Liam Hendriks. The team had a 5.48 ERA in these starts, with the pitcher often leaving the game early.

As any Jays fan should know, it is very rare for a team to make it through the season with just five starters. The Blue Jays had thirteen different starting pitchers in 2013, including Chien-Ming Wang, Aaron Laffey and Ramon Ortiz. Pitching depth can be extremely important.

After dominating the minors last season, Daniel Norris is likely to take the last spot in the rotation sooner rather than later. Even if Estrada joins the Blue Jays' bullpen at times throughout the season, I would bet on him making around twenty starts as the Jays' sixth starter. It is easy to overlook the value of a quality swingman, but let's not forget Estrada is likely to get over 100 innings in 2015.

The Blue Jays' Hitters Will Make You Throw A Strike

One thing that stands out for me with this team is their strong plate discipline. The stat "O-Swing %" measures how often a player swings at a pitch when it is out of the strike zone. I looked at O-Swing % for players during the 2013 & 2014 seasons. Among the 403 players that qualified, Ramon Santiago, Munenori Kawasaki, Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista all ranked within the top 50. Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion ranked within the top 100, while Justin Smoak posted an above average mark. Though recent acquisition Daric Barton did not qualify for the list, he posted the best mark in all of baseball between 2011 and 2012.

Many of the players who did not rank in the top 200 have since left the team. Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, Juan Francisco, Melky Cabrera, Anthony Gose and Erik Kratz all posted below average marks. Dioner Navarro, who is no longer the starting catcher, also posted a below-average mark.

I am starting to wonder if this is a stat the Blue Jays' front office is really focusing on. The 2015 lineup seems poised to drive up pitch counts while taking their fare share of walks.

Many Players Could See A Home Run Spike

Another trend of the Blue Jays offseason has been acquiring players who have spent recent seasons in pitcher-friendly parks. Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson all seem capable of having twenty home run seasons, yet their home parks have not favoured the long ball in the past.

Mike Podhorzer of FanGraphs recently used information such as batted ball distances to find which players are not hitting as many home runs as you would expect.  Of the seven players on the list, two are recent Blue Jay acquisitions. Instead of playing in parks where fly balls go to die, these players could hit for much more power in the Rogers Centre. It definitely seems like the Blue Jays are utilizing batted ball distance to their advantage.

Not Spending Heavily On The Bullpen Is A Smart Decision

I actually really like what the Blue Jays have done with their bullpen, which of course is not much. With the volatility of relievers, spending heavily on the bullpen often is not a very good idea. Preston Guilmet looks like a very nice under the radar pickup. In AAA last season, Guilmet had very strong strikeout numbers while limiting walks, leading to a 2.63 SIERA. Guilmet should give the Jays a quality right-handed reliever for the league minimum salary.

Another pickup, Matt West, posted similar numbers to Guilmet in 2014. With Cecil, Sanchez and Loup already in the fold I would not overpay for a "proven closer". If Kyle Drabek and the 2014 version of Steve Delabar are forced onto the team, I will be much more concerned about the bullpen. Signing Joba Chamberlain or trading for Oliver Perez could be the finishing touch, but I would keep some money for an in-season pickup.

The Order Of The Pitching Rotation

I know it is early, but I wanted to talk about the order of the pitching rotation. The Blue Jays have two off days in April, one of which is right after opening day. There are a ton of games against division rivals to start the season, so the order of the rotation could end up being fairly important. As it stands, here are April's match-ups for each spot in the rotation:

1st

@NYY

@BAL

ATL

BAL

@BOS

2nd

@NYY

TB

ATL

@TB

@BOS

3rd

@NYY

TB

ATL

@TB

4th

@BAL

TB

BAL

@TB

5th

@BAL

TB

BAL

@BOS

In my opinion, the biggest games appear to be against Boston and Baltimore. The 3rd spot in the rotation never plays against either team, while the 2nd spot only faces Boston once. The first and fifth spots get either Boston or Baltimore three times, so these spots should have the best pitchers. It should also be noted that the 2nd spot in the rotation is expected to pitch for the home opener.

If Marcus Stroman does not get the ball on opening day, it may be wise to have him be the 5th starter. If Marco Estrada makes the rotation, I'd probably like to make him the 3rd starter. Some may say it is too early to talk about these things, but feel free to discuss how you would order the rotation in the comments!