Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays Series Preview: Time for the offence to breakout?

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May 9, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) is greeted in the dugout atfter scoring in the first inning of their MLB baseball game with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
May 9, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) is greeted in the dugout atfter scoring in the first inning of their MLB baseball game with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Game 2: May 14 – 8:05 ET @ Texas

Marco Estrada (1-2, 2.39 ERA, 3.32 FIP) vs.
Colby Lewis (2-0, 3.20 ERA, 5.13 FIP)

Estrada continues to show that last year wasn’t a fluke, as his pair of starts last week combined for two earned runs over 13 innings pitched with 11 strikeouts and three walks. His fastball and changeup combination offers incredible deception and timing problems for hitters, and he’s consistently been able to use his cutter and curveball in all counts.

His command is still strong despite the walk rate that’s climbed a touch, and he’s developed into the type of pitcher who relies on setting hitters up instead of blowing them away with dynamite stuff.

Not only has Estrada had a great amount of success this year, but he’s also done it against a number of offensively gifted teams. He’s faced Boston twice, and then Baltimore, Texas, the White Sox and the Dodgers once each. Those are teams with piles of talent, and he’s done an admirable job of handling and mitigating what they’re able to do at the plate.

Something I’ve noticed in Estrada’s arsenal that could be playing a role in his continued success is the development of his cutter. He’s taken some velocity off of it, registering at 87.05 compared to 88.41 last year, but he’s more than doubled the amount of horizontal break it gets. According to Brooks Baseball, his cutter moved on average 0.75 inches in 2015, while this year it’s moving 1.85. That’s a pretty sizeable jump and it’s turned the pitch into a much better offering for Estrada.

He uses the cutter 14.86% of the time, an increase on last year’s 8.53 total, and it has a whiff percentage of 10.11%, which is way up on last year’s 4.20. Clearly, he’s developed a sharper cutter, that has more movement to his glove side, giving him the opportunity to use it more in all situations and turn to it for swing and misses. It’s another weapon on top of the fastball and changeup combo he uses so well.

Lewis was dealing against the Jays in the latest series, striking out seven batters over seven innings while only issuing one walk and giving up five hits. He did give up three earned runs, but it was one of his better starts of the year against a lineup that should do more damage against him.

He offers five different pitches, with a fourseam, sinker, change, slider and curve, so he offers a diverse look, but only one of his pitches is a decent swing and miss option. His slider offers the best potential for him to get whiffs, as it owns a 19.50 whiff percentage, but the other four offerings don’t register anything over 6.59.

He’ll rely heavily on both his fourseam and slider, while mixing in the rest of his pitches. He doesn’t get the ball on the ground with great frequency, and he struggles with the home run ball. This is a matchup you love to see for the Jays, but as I mentioned before, on paper is far different from on the field, so you can’t take anything for granted.

Next: Sanchez looks to continue success as a starter

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