The Toronto Blue Jays have made the call to pair Marco Estrada with Dioner Navarro throughout the playoffs, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Estrada and Navarro have worked together 19 times in 2015, producing an ERA 2.63.
This move solidifies Estrada’s role in the playoff rotation, which shouldn’t come as a great surprise, but it could be the final domino to fall for Mark Buehrle. Now likely to be left on the outside looking in, the Blue Jays will soon decide whether or not to roster the veteran left-hander as a bullpen piece.
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For Estrada, the pairing with Navarro boils down to trust. “It’s awesome working the guy, he knows how to call a game, that’s for sure,” Estrada told Davidi. “I just try to follow, try to keep up with him as much as I can, I don’t really disagree with the guy ever. Like I’ve said before, if I hit the glove, I’m probably going to be pretty successful.”
The results speak for themselves. Estrada’s 2.63 ERA with Navarro far outshines the 4.11 ERA when pitching to Russell Martin, and the numbers put up by opposing hitters show a significant divide.
With Martin: .244 / .307 / .403
With Navarro: .183 / .252 / .339
Surprisingly enough, Estrada has also done a much better job at controlling base runners with Navarro behind the plate. Estrada has allowed 5 steals over 61.1 innings pitching to Martin, but just 2 over 113.0 innings with Navarro. Trust exists on the other side of the plate too, as Navarro has developed a great chemistry with Estrada similar to his working relationship with Buehrle. As pitcher and catcher begin to operate on the same mental wavelength, variables are eliminated so that pitch quality and consistency can win out.
“I’ve been in the big-leagues for almost 10 years now, and I’m a huge believer that the reason why I’ve been able to stay for so long is because of what I do behind the plate,” said Navarro. “The biggest thing is when they get to the point where they know they can trust me, that’s it. The first few starts, you don’t know the guy, what he likes to do, but once you get to know them, and once they get know what I’m trying to do, it’s a lot easier.”
Estrada has performed marginally better at home, a surprising statistic for a pitcher prone to surrendering fly balls, but not to the extent that R.A. Dickey has. I would still expect David Price to be followed by Dickey in game two, with Marcus Stroman taking the third start ahead of Estrada.