Blue Jays may have a sneaky Cy Young candidate
He may not have the flashiest stuff, and a fastball that barely touches 90, but Marco Estrada is proving he belongs in the conversation for the AL’s best starters
Back on November 1st, 2014, the Blue Jays shipped Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers for a swingman by the name of Marco Estrada. The Blue Jays were seeking some fresh faces and some additional payroll flexibility, and decided Lind was expendable. At the time it was reported that few, if any, other teams made offers to acquire Lind. Blue Jays fans didn’t know much about Estrada other than he was “all we could get” for the long-time Jay and it felt a bit underwhelming.
Estrada began the year in the bullpen for the Jays in 2015, but joined the rotation and became one of the most valuable starters down the stretch and in the playoffs. When the Blue Jays re-signed him this offseason to a two-year, $26 million pact, it felt like a fair deal, albeit a risky one given his short track record.
Fast forward to today and that contract is one of the better bargains in baseball. Not only has Estrada established himself as a worthy starter, he’s quietly putting together one of the better seasons in recent memory for the Jays. On June 15th, Estrada tied a major league record with his 10th consecutive start of 6.0+ innings pitched and five or fewer hits allowed.
He’s certainly worthy of a selection to the All-Star game coming up next month, but he may be putting himself in a position for other individual honours like the CY Young, if he can keep up his current pace.
The Mexican born starter is 5-2 through 13 starts and 87.1 innings, mostly because he’s been the victim of poor run support on several quality outings thus far. Yes, Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale already has 11 wins, but wins are poor stat to use when evaluating starting pitching.
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Estrada currently sits first in the American League with a 0.98 WHIP, which has become a much better indicator of a pitcher’s performance. He’s also first in the AL in opponent’s batting average at .168. He’s 3rd in ERA at 2.58, 18th in strikeouts, and 20th in innings pitched (Estrada starts again Tuesday). Estrada is also tied for 12th with a 1.6 fWAR and ranks even better in bWAR, tied for 7th with 2.7. He’s been the best of a rock solid Jays’ rotation, and would likely get the ball in Game 1 if the playoffs were to start today.
However, the 2nd-year Jay is hardly alone as an elite starter in the AL this season. The White Sox have the aforementioned Sale, and also Jose Quintana that will warrant serious consideration. Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians, Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees, Chris Tillman of the Orioles, and even Steven Wright of the Red Sox would be considered for votes. For comparison sake, take a look:
Chris Sale: 11-2, 2.94 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 2.8 WAR
Masahiro Tanaka: 4-2, 2.91 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3.0 WAR
Chris Tillman: 10-1, 3.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.9 WAR
Steven Wright: 8-4, 2.22 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2.3 WAR
Jose Quintana: 5-7, 2.63 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 3.0 WAR
Danny Salazar: 8-3, 2.23 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.7 WAR
Marco Estrada: 5-2, 2.58 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 2.7 WAR
If the season were to end today, it’s unlikely that a Estrada would be the favourite, but it’s pretty obvious he belongs in the discussion. Voters can sometimes be influenced by the record of the teams the contenders pitch for, not as much as in the case of the MVP award, but it can still be an influence. A lot can change, but the White Sox look like pretenders, and the Yankees have greatly struggled, which may hurt the cases of three hurlers listed above.
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We’re not yet at the halfway point of the season so there are a ton of variables in play before the final numbers are in. The Blue Jays have been swinging the bat a lot better and will need their rotation to continue to produce, and they’ll be leaning on Estrada, especially as the season progresses.
They don’t necessarily need a Cy Young level performance out of their crafty veteran, but he may just give them one anyway.