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The Season That Was: Marco Estrada

Looking back at Marco’s 2017 season

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season, Marco Estrada had two excellent seasons with the Blue Jays. In 2015, he was 10th in Cy Young voting. In 2016 he made the All-Star team. And, of course, he was very very good in playoffs both seasons.

And it seemed kind of effortless for him. Yeah, sometimes there were home runs, but we could live with it. On the flip side of that he came close to no-hitters on occasion.

He made me appreciated the changeup again. When he was good, Ricky Romero had a pretty amazing Changeup too, but that was a few years ago, and then his time with us didn’t end well.

So, we were looking forward to another great season. We didn’t quite get it.

Year   Age  W L  ERA  G GS    IP   H  ER HR BB  SO HBP  FIP SO9
2017    33 10 9 4.98 33 33 186.0 186 103 31 71 176   2 4.61 8.5

Baseball Reference credits him with a 2.2 WAR. FanGraphs liked him more 2.6, making him worth $20.7 million to the Blue Jays.

His BABIP was .295, which was way up from last year (.234) and the year before (.216). His left on base percentage was 71.9%, down from last year (75.8).

Marco’s FIP (4.61) and xFIP (5.06) were right around his ERA.

His line drive rate was up a bit (19.4%, up from 18.3). Ground balls were a little lower (30.3%, from 33.5). Fly balls slightly up (50.3, from 48.2). More of the fly balls left the park (11.2%, up from 9.9).

He was getting about the same percentage of strikeouts (21.8%, from 22.8 last year). Walks were about the same too (8.8%, last year 9.0).

He had huge reverse splits. Right-handers hit .289/.364/.500, left-handers .216/.268/.418. That’s two years in a row with big reverse splits, before that his splits were more normal.

At home, Marco was 6-3 with a 4.34 ERA, batters hit .252/.327/.452. On the road, his ERA was worse 5.43, 4-6, but batters hit much the same .259/.318/.471. It’s strange that there would be a run difference in ERA when the batting lines were much the same.

He was slightly better in the second half (6-3, 4.76, .244/.310/.442) than the first half (4-6, 5.17, .266/.332/.480).

Marco by month:

  • April: 0-1, 2.79, batters hit .223/.293/.411 in 5 starts.
  • May 4-1, 3.49, batters hit .228/.263/.403 in 6 starts.
  • June: 0-4, 9.11, batters hit .353/.432/.613 in 6 starts.
  • July: 0-1, 6.48, batters hit .245/.345/.468 in 5 starts.
  • August: 3-1, 5.36, batters hit .278/.335/.486 in 6 starts.
  • Sept: 3-1, 3.68, batters hit .204/.259/.398 in 5 starts.

I think we all remember that things fell apart in June. I don’t know what was going on, but he did right things before the end of the season. Maybe there was an injury, but more likely it was just a bad bad slump. They happen. I find they happen to me, so I’m understanding of players going into slumps. But, I am glad that he figured things out before the end of the season.

The team was 16-17 in his starts. His longest winning streak was 5 games, running from August 26 to September 22. His longest losing streak was also 5 games, running from June 1 to July 21.

His best start, by Game Score, was a 76, on May 21 at Baltimore. He went 7.2 innings, allowed 5 hits, 1 earned, 1 walk with 12 strikeouts.

His worst start was a 10 Game Score, on September 27, his last start of the season, at Boston. He went just 2.1, allowed 9 hits, 7 earned, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts.

The Jays signed Marco to a $13 million contract for next season, which should be good value, as long as his June and July isn’t a sign of things too come.

He averaged 5.6 innings per start, lower than he’s been in the past. I’d like him to be over 6 innings. We leaned on the bullpen too much this year.

He turns 35 next July and we know that players tend to decline into their mid and late 30’s. I figured Marco would age well, because he doesn’t rely on a big fastball, but then, when you top out at about 91, you can’t afford to lose much on the fastball.

Marco and Marcus Stroman were the only 2 Jays starters not to miss time with injury, both making 33 starts. There is a value to being able to stay healthy. Course, there is more of a value to it, if you can stay consistent.

I enjoy watching Marco pitch. I’ve always liked guys that can be successful without the 95 mph fastball. It seems like it is more of a thinking game for pitchers like that. It always amazes me when someone can get by on a changeup. I mean, he throws the fastball 50% of the time, but it tops out at about 90 mph (on a good day), but it’s the changeup which gets guys out.

Beyond that, Marco seems like a great guy. And he does seem to like playing in Toronto and with the Blue Jays. It really doesn’t seem like Rogers Centre should be the perfect ballpark for a fly ball pitcher, but he has been doing well there.

If he can get back to being the pitcher he was before this season, and if Aaron Sanchez can find a fix for the blisters, that would go a long way towards making us competitive again. I know those are big ifs, but I do have hope.