A year ago, we were debating the merits of the Blue Jays trading away Adam Lind to get Marco Estrada. We weren't exactly thrilled with the deal, but it did turn out pretty good (not that having a left-handed hitting Adam Lind in among all our right-handed hitters would have been a bad things).
And, soon after, we were debating whether Marco would (or should) be a starter or a reliever. The feeling was that, with a $3.9 million contract, it would be a waste to have him in the bullpen. But then, many of us weren't sure we would want to have him starting every fifth day, with his fly ball tendencies.
Marco spent the first month in the pen. He was very good, allowing just 1 run in 10.2 innings. In May, he was put into the rotation. His first month didn't go well. The rest of the season, he was great. Add in an amazing start in the playoffs and the Jays decided to reward him for his great season by giving him a 2-year $26 million contract.
At the time, it seems like a lot of money for a guy that was coming off of what was really his first good season. But, as the winter went on, and other free agent starters got longer and richer contracts, Marco's contract seemed more and more reasonable.
For a breakout season, a lot of Marco's stats went the wrong direction last year. His strikeout rate has gone from 23.1% in 2013, to 20.4% in 2014 to 18.1%. His walk rate, over the same three season, has one from 5.7% to 7.1% to 7.6% last year.
With fewer strikeouts, and more walks, how did he have such a good season. In large part, because of a very low BABIP, .216, achieved by by giving up fewer line drives, going from 18.1%, to 17.8% to 15.5%. And, of course, he gave up far fewer home runs last year.
I do wonder if he can continue to be effective if his strikeout rate continues to drop. Last year Estrada was 21st from the bottom in strikeout rate (out of 78 pitchers who threw 162 innings). The Jays had 2 pitchers 'higher' than Marco on the list, R.A. Dickey (3rd) and Mark Buehrle (1st).
Among pitchers with 160 or more innings, no one had a lower BABIP than Marco, but then he was also second lowest in baseball for line drive percentage.
The question $26 million question is can he continue to be as effective without missing bats? And,course, can he continue his new found success at keeping the ball in the park?
Of course, there is also the question of whether he can be successful without Dioner Navarro as his personal catcher? And, if he has a couple of bad starts in a row, how quick will everyone be to blame Russell Martin? I really don't buy that idea that he can't win with Russell. I think that Russell is smart enough to see what Marco was doing when he was successful and call the same type of game. I don't buy the idea that there is only one guy that can catch Marco.
It will be interesting to watch what happens with Marco. He was so much fun to watch last year. If he can have the same sort of year, this year, it would go a long way towards getting us back in the playoffs.