Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
Marco Estrada broke out in 2015 after being traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Adam Lind. This trade turned out to be one of the best moves that Alex Anthopoulos made as Estrada set a new career high in innings with 181 and won 13 games for the Blue Jays on their way to an ALCS appearance.
Last offseason, Estrada was part of a double-barreled plan (along with the signing of J.A. Happ) to provide the club with a strong starting rotation in the wake of David Price‘s signing with the Boston Red Sox. With Estrada, the Blue Jays struck quickly, signing him to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13 and he then proceeded to pay the club dividends on that investment. There was still some anxiousness around Estrada’s deal, primarily because some people were wondering whether his success in 2015 was an anomaly or whether he would revert to being the swingman that he was in Milwaukee.
Estrada came into spring with concerns over his health. His back was becoming an issue and he didn’t make his season’s debut until April 10, throwing seven innings of scoreless ball at the Boston Red Sox and letting us all know that Marco was back. Armed with one of the best changeups in baseball, Estrada made 16 starts between April 10 and July 2 and had a 2.93 ERA, .582 OPS against and .173 batting average against in 104 1/3 innings. Still, a low BABIP (.193) and an ailing back caused some worry and Estrada went on the DL, missing almost three weeks including an appearance in his first All-Star Game.
Marco returned on July 22 and only struck out three batters (his second lowest total of the year) while going six innings against Seattle. Between his return from the DL and September 14, he made 10 more starts, adding only 52 2/3 inning, primarily due to the Jays being a bit more cautious: Estrada eclipsed the 100-pitch mark only three times in that span. His ERA ballooned, hitting 5.47 over those 10 outings as his BABIP normalized to .319. Fans were worried about his ability to get the Blue Jays into the playoffs again as he was limping into the finish, giving up 12 earned runs in his first three starts of September.
Somehow, Estrada turned things around over his last three starts, with the Jays going 2-1 (although the loss certainly was a result of the bullpen coughing up the lead) in those starts. Still, Estrada gave up just two runs in 19 innings and was dominant as he prepared to throw in the playoffs. Estrada finished his regular season with a 3.48 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 176 innings, striking out 165 and walking 65. He was worth 3.0 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs, well up from even his 2015 total of 1.8 fWAR.
Estrada continued his big-game performances in the playoffs, throwing 8 1/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball against the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series while also posting a 2.57 ERA in two games (including a complete game loss) against the Cleveland Indians in the AL Championship Series. Estrada struck out 13 in 14 innings while walking only one but allowed three home runs in the two games.
Estrada has one year and $14.5 million left on his deal.
Marco Estrada started the season on the disabled list, after having hurt his back before Spring Training. His first start of 2016 was a seven-inning shutout against the Boston Red Sox and handed the Jays their first home win of the season. On June 5th, Estrada threw 7.1 innings of no-hit ball against those same Red Sox. Three months later, on September 19th, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners. Those efforts, and several other low-hit outings, resulted in him leading the AL in fewest hits per 9 innings pitched.
In 16 of his 29 starts he allowed four hits or fewer, and in fact set an MLB record with twelve consecutive games of six or more innings pitched and five or fewer hits allowed (the previous record was ten). His streak ended on July 2nd, when he could go no deeper than five innings due to a sore back, later revealed to be a herniated disc. Shortly after that outing he was placed on the DL, and his back led to some struggles in July and August, when he saw his ERA rise above 3.00 for the first time all season. Estrada was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, but could not play due to his back injury.
He also led the AL in Opponent’s Batting Average (OBA), finishing the year with a .203 and trailing behind only Jake Arrieta and Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in all of MLB. His ERA for the season was 3.48, his WHIP 1.12 and the lowest of the Jays’ rotation. This was in spite of the fact that he allowed 65 walks, the most of any Blue Jays starter.
On September 14th, Estrada became the first Blue Jays pitcher to strike out five consecutive batters to start a game, and he recorded a career-high 165 strikeouts total for the season. He continued to be an extreme fly-ball pitcher, allowing 23 home runs (including one every start in June) and having a groundout-to-flyout ratio of 0.59.
His 9-9 record for the year was a poor indicator of how he pitched, in part because of a lot of no-decisions which turned into bullpen losses, and in part because he received the lowest run support of any of the Jays’ starters, at 3.63 runs per 9 innings.
Estrada made three playoff starts: ALDS Game 1 and ALCS Games 1 & 5. In the ALDS he was two outs away from a complete game shutout of the Rangers when he allowed an RBI groundout. He only allowed four hits, no walks and struck out six. Had he been able to finish the game, it would have been his first career CG, and the first of 2016 for a Jays starter.
In the ALCS he had two decent starts, allowing 2 runs on six hits over eight innings in Game 1, then 3 runs (two earned) in 6 innings in Game 5. Unfortunately, he was charged with the loss in both of those games as the Jays got shut out. The Game 1 loss was technically a complete game as the Jays were in Cleveland at the time, so the bottom of the 9th was unnecessary. He’d only walked one, and the two runs both scored on a Francisco Lindor homer. In Game 5 he allowed five hits, two of them home runs, walked nobody and struck out seven.
Regular Season Grades
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