The Toronto Blue Jays are on the brink of playoff elimination. They’re down 2-0 in the ALDS to the Texas Rangers. In a weird twist of fate, all of their hopes hinge on Marco Estrada. Once traded for Adam Lind in a deal that felt like the club whatever it could for the so called “malcontent”, Estrada has established himself as quite the force in the Blue Jays rotation. It wasn’t clear what the club would get from him. They’d hoped for a swing man who could give them a spot start here and there. Now, they are putting all of their hopes on his shoulders to save their season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Trading for Estrada seemed a little odd in that not much was expected from this deal. It felt like the club would have taken anything they could get for Lind. Estrada came in to provide a possible bullpen arm who could slot in to cover a spot start if needed. He was expected to fill the role that Carlos Villanueva had when he was a member of the Blue Jays.
Instead, Estrada took the club by storm and became one of the more consistent members of this rotation. He went 13-8 in the regular season, which is nearly double his previous high for wins. His 3.13 ERA is the best mark of his career as is his 6.7 H/9. His WHIP of 1.044 also is a career best. He did all of this on his way to throwing more innings than he ever has. In fact, in 2015, he gave up fewer hits (134) in his 181 innings than he did (137) in 150 innings last season.
No one could have seen this coming. His performances this year have been nothing short of impressive. And surprising. Since May 5th, he’s had 12 starts in which he’s held opponents to 3 or fewer hits. To finish June, he had 3 starts in a row where he gave up 1, 2 and 3 hits respectively. They were against division rivals, Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Boston. The second of which saw him go 8.2 innings and only give up 2 hits after flirting with a no-no. He would finish the year with a 5-2 run.
The big knock against Estrada came in the form of his penchant for surrendering home runs. And, he’s given up his share with 24 long balls in 181 innings. But, he’s brought his HR/FB rate down from 13.2% to 8.7%. He still have given up 1.19 HR/9, but it has been an improvement over what we all feared we’d witness if he were given an extended look in the rotation.
According to Fangraphs.com, batters are pulling the ball less and with less authority than last year. And, he moved to the hitter friendly AL East. He’s using his change up to his benefit. His season has been so much better than he thought.
Now, the club is asking him to save their season. How ironic is that? The guy who didn’t really have a defined role on this team over the winter has now become the ultimate swing man. This season could come to a crashing halt on Sunday night. Or, it could continue for another day. Marco Estrada has the weight of the Blue Jays’ season on his shoulders.
This season, he’s faced the Rangers just once. It was on August 27 in Texas. The results are encouraging. He went 6 innings, gave up just 4 hits and one earned run. He struck out 6 and walked 3 on 105 pitches. The Blue Jays will need him to repeat this success on Sunday. Otherwise, it will be the last game in 2015 for this club. All of a sudden, there is a lot of pressure on the once unknown commodity. The 2015 season hangs in the balance.