Last night, Marco Estrada threw seven scoreless innings against the Braves, beating Atlanta’s club with six strike outs, three walks, and two hits. Estrada’s outing served as a reminder of just how good the righty can be when he limits the long ball; for all intents and purposes, his start last night mimicked the vast majority of his start against the Cubs (before he unleashed one high, hanging change up).
Earlier this year, J.P. Breen featured Estrada’s change up as a crucial weapon to the hurler’s success. Notably, not only has Estrada selected his change more frequently in 2013 than in 2011-2012, but he’s also selecting the pitch more frequently in September than in his earlier 2013 starts. The righty is currently on a stretch of solid-to-excellent “quality starts” for the Brewers. During his three September starts, according to TexasLeaguers, Estrada has thrown his change up nearly 26% of the time. This is more frequently than his 24% changes from April-through-August, and significantly more frequently than his near-18% change ups in 2012.
I know I’ve focused on this in the past, but it never ceases to amaze me how Estrada separates his release points. Even in his strong September starts, Estrada’s change ups appear from a different release point than his fastballs. This is surprising because one expects MLB batters to pick up any differences in a pitcher’s delivery that could be applied to their advantage. Yet with the frequency that one sees release point shifts among MLB pitchers, perhaps the sharp-eyed batters are not able to discern those shifts as much as one might think.
One of the most analyzed themes of Estrada’s performance and contribution to the Brewers is his ability to stabilize the rotation. While he’s not an ace, he’s the type of pitcher that has shown an ability to keep the Brewers in the game in general, and then go on extreme hot streaks (his current stretch of eight starts fits that mold, and he also finished the 2012 season with an exceptional series of starts — he was notably better than Zack Greinke after the trade deadline).
Even if you’re inclined to argue that the Milwaukee Brewers do not have an ace, the Brewers’ rotation has been able to stabilize and perform at an extremely serviceable level since the All-Star Break. Notably, 51 of the Brewers’ 62 starts since the All-Star Break belong to Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, and Johnny Hellweg. Even with a strong number of starts made by replacements in the second half, some of those replacements (notably, Thornburg) have performed well, leading to a solid rotational core to complete the season. Furthermore, even though the total rate of replacement starts in the second half is not encouraging, the performance of replacements (again, like Thornburg, and Tom Gorzelanny) are better than first half replacement performances.
In fact, the Brewers’ current six-man rotation is approximately 20 runs better than 2013 NL/Miller Park since the break:
|Pitcher||G/GS||IP||R||K / BB / HR||FIPRuns|
|Lohse||12||74.3||29||49 / 17 / 7||33|
|Peralta||12||70||36||59 / 28 / 8||35|
|Gallardo||10||61||22||47 / 22 / 6||29|
|Estrada||8||51.3||13||48 / 11 / 5||20|
|Thornburg||13/6||46.3||13||31 / 21 / 1||19|
|Hellweg||3||16||9||3 / 9 / 3||13|
|Total||58/51||319||122||219 / 108 / 30||149|
It’s good to see a number of the Brewers’ pitchers coming around, including Estrada, Peralta, and Gallardo. Even with relatively (or, comparatively) rough stretches by Lohse, the rotation has been one of the Brewers’ strengths in the second half. As always, with Estrada, the extremely good starts suggest to us that he should be so much more; yet, his role as stabilizer is valuable in itself.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2013.
TexasLeaguers. Trip Somers, 2009-2013.
Release points from Trip Somers, 2009-2013