Why The Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada Is An Ideal Sell High Candidate Heading Into 2017

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Over the past two seasons the Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada has seemingly turned the corner and emerged as one of the top starting pitchers in the league.  In 2015 he posted a 3.13 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, though it was filled with skepticism (.216 BABIP).  Having followed it up with these numbers, it gets harder to write him off as a fluke:

176.0 IP
9 Wins
3.48 ERA
1.12 WHIP
165 Strikeouts (8.44 K/9)
65 Walks (3.32 BB/9)
33.5% Groundball Rate
.234 BABIP

While the surface numbers look impressive, especially with his improved strikeout rate, when you start to dig into the numbers the questions are still clearly there.  He has always posted a below average BABIP (.256 for his career), thanks to a suppressed line drive rate (17.7% for his career).  That makes ’16 marks (18.3% line drive rate) all the more believable.  Or does it?

There was an obvious split in his numbers:

  • First Half – 16.8%
  • Second Half – 20.2%

Sure the second half mark isn’t crippling, but it came with a .285 BABIP (.193 in the first half).  That helped lead to a 4.27 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, hardly numbers that would excite anyone and does bring a little bit of doubt.

Then you have the miniscule groundball rate, which leads to significant home run concerns pitching in Toronto.  As it is he posted a 1.18 HR/9, but would it really be a surprise to see that number jump up even more?  Just consider these numbers against the team’s within the AL East:

  • Baltimore – 3 HR over 24.0 IP
  • Boston – 2 HR over 28.1 IP
  • New York – 6 HR over 26.0 IP
  • Tampa Bay – 2 HR over 15.1 IP

While the Yankees got to him, no one else in the division were able to batter him very much.  Considering the offensive fire power of the Orioles and Red Sox, would we really bank on him being able to keep the ball in the ballpark?  In 2015 those two teams combined for 8 HR over 36.1 IP against Estrada, and that type of mark would significantly alter his production/outlook.

Combine that risk along with the second half regression and it comes together for a pitcher to avoid heading into 2017.  It’s possible an owner in your league is willing to buy him based on the surface numbers, but don’t make that mistake.  If you have the opportunity sell high and move on.

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports

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