Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
I still sometimes do these, right?
The Blue Jays and Yankees played a hell of a ballgame in gaudy camo-tinged uniforms — I mean, seriously, if we must cave to the armed forces’ marketing dollar, can we not just get some tasteful poppies on there? — on Monday night at Rogers Centre. Or, at least some of them did.
Marco Estrada, for example, was slightly fucking exquisite. In a game in which the Jays’ battered bullpen was — DID YOU HEAR??? — understaffed, and needed as much of a break as possible, Estrada pitched like the ace he’s stunningly transformed into over the last calendar year. He lowered his league-leading BABIP to .207, and while that’s a stat that’s sometimes used as a proxy for luck, it can also be an indicator that hitters simply aren’t making quality contact with his pitches.
Uhhh… of course, so is hard contact rate, and he doesn’t grade out nearly as well there, but Estrada is unique (mostly — Angels lefty Hector Santiago is similar) among top BABIP pitchers in that he induces an exceptional amount of fly balls. Balls that, one might infer, are occasionally being classified as having been hit hard, but that don’t quite have the juice to leave the yard. He and Santiago also have the lowest two line drive rates among (qualified) starters over the last calendar year, and by quite a decent margin (13.9 and 14.5% to Rubby de la Rosa’s 17.3%). And they’re both heavily reliant on the changeup, messing with hitters timing, contributing to the effect.
Should we be worried by the fact that Santiago, for all his similarities to Estrada (walk and strikeout rates, too!), is pretty bad?
I’m going to go with “no” on that one. The difference in handedness is one thing, but while Estrada may not quite be elite in terms of limiting hard contact, he’s in the middle of the pack. Santiago, on the other hand, is… well… bad. His hard contact rate is fourth highest among qualified starters over the past calendar year, his home run per flyball rate is then, perhaps, understandably high. Meanwhile, Estrada is in the top 20 among that same group as far as inducing soft contact goes.
Santiago is not, it turns out, a left-handed Estrada with worse HR/FB luck, I don’t think. So why am I still talking about him??? Answer: I guess because Marco Estrada really is good now, but he does it in an unusual enough way that you can still almost mistake him for a guy that’s pretty useless. Weird, huh?
Being able to do this doesn’t exactly hurt, either:
Batters are hitting .118 against Marco Estrada’s changeup: pic.twitter.com/LLi0mW83AC
— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) May 31, 2016
Or, according to Russell Martin (via Shi Davidi’s latest at Sportsnet), the problem might just be ego. The ego of opposing hitters, that is. Or… well… ego and a wicked changeup.
“Everything is coming out of the same angle and it’s anywhere from 89 to 78 and then he’s got the breaking ball. He’s mixing your eye level by going up and down and then he has the velocity difference with the changeup, and then he has the curveball and then he has the cutter. If you’re on the fastball, you’re probably going to just miss the cutter. If you’re on the cutter, if he throws a good one, you’re not going to keep it fair. If you’re on the curveball, he’s got to throw a middle-middle curveball for you to hit it or else it’s going to be a tough pitch to hit. And the fastball he locates so well that you can sometimes put the ball on a tee where he’s putting it and it’s going to be hard to hit,” Martin explained on Monday.
“The big thing about him is his command and the way he disguises the velocity,” Martin continued. “You really cannot pick up the changeup out of his hand. The arm speed is exactly the same as his fastball, and for me as a hitter, that’s the toughest thing, to wait back on a changeup and drive it. So many guys miss fastballs because they’re honouring the changeup. Those 88s that are up, that normally guys would crush, (get swing and miss) because in their mind they don’t want to look like an idiot on a changeup, which they pretty much all have in their career already.”
It sure is working.
Hey, and Ryan Goins had himself a night, too, bringing his season wRC+ all the way up to 31 (from 15!) with a double and a home run. Ryan is still Goins to lose his job soon (as much as a backup infielder with options ever can on a roster that features Troy Tulowitzki), but that was a hell of a thing! His WAR for the 2016 season now stands at -0.7 — yet another reminder that being a very good defensive player just isn’t good enough.
Speaking of that, I’ve had a couple people on Twitter asking me what I thought of Goins’ trade value now that Devon Travis is back and he’s “expendable.” Thing is, like I say, a guy who plays behind Tulo is, unfortunately, not going to be surplus to requirements for long. And the thing about Goins’ trade value is, does he even have any?
All-glove, no-hit infielders — even ones with a glove as good as Goins’ — just aren’t difficult to find. Which isn’t to say that a guy like Goins wouldn’t be a nice piece on somebody’s roster — somebody like the Blue Jays, most likely — but that I have a hard time believing anybody’s going to pay a premium to get him, or that a club looking to offload a halfway decent reliever isn’t going to be able to find something more attractive.
But yeah, dealing for some relief help sure would be fucking nice. Monday night’s bullpen wobble in the ninth inning — with no Roberto Osuna to bail them out — didn’t quite threaten to make an otherwise pleasant night of baseball turn ugly, but it definitely threatened to threaten it.
I’ll keep defending Aaron Loup and his weird 2015 that was heavily influenced by bad luck, but holy piss, he gave up a rocket to Brian McCann that pulled the Yankees within two, and seeing Drew Storen trot out to the mound (and not, say, the glue factory) afterwards was hardly inspiring.
I know the Jays are already bereft of prospects and loath to deal away any of them, but… uh… not sure they have much choice on this one. Making trades is always far easier said than done, so I won’t bang my fist on my desk and demand that something be done here, I just hope to hell the front office is ready to swallow hard and make a move to benefit the present.
I mean, seven games into this current Boston-New York gamut they’re running and they’re 5-2 so far. That’ll do! Find ‘em some help already!