Weekend Wrap: The Buck Foston Edition

Marco Estrada
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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Estrada is such a damn boss.

That is, of course, hardly the only takeaway one can have from yet another series win for the Jays, but it’s a real prominent one after the club’s “holy shit I think this guy really is an ace” took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Boston’s vaunted offence on Sunday. And did so in their joke stadium, no less!

Marco is still not liked a whole lot by FIP, which for him currently sits at 3.82 (his xFIP is 4.69), partly because his walk rate of 9.9% is higher than any season since he became a full-time big leaguer. Still, even by FanGraphs’ FIP-based WAR he’s in the top 25 of MLB starters this season. And if you allow that he really does suppress good contact by screwing up hitters timing with his incredible changeup — which he throws with the same arm speed as his fastball, only it comes in 11 mph slower — he’s been even more impressive relative to his peers.

Because their leaderboards are better I like to use FanGraphs’ RA9-WAR when I’m trying to feel rosy about FIP-busters like Estrada or R.A. Dickey, as it’s simply WAR based on runs allowed. But Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, which is based on runs allowed, then adjusted for opponents, defence, park, etc., might be even better. In both cases, Estrada is having a dream season — ninth best in baseball by both metrics. And over the past calendar year, he’s now fifth best by RA9-WAR.

I feel like I say this every week, but why shouldn’t it be said every week?? Estrada deserves all the praise.

(Plus it keeps me from having to write about the little blip Roberto Osuna had on Sunday — which I think he’s allowed, since he’s been completely fucking nails so far this year — or the tendency fans seem to be falling into lately of ripping on John Gibbons for lack of anything better to piss and moan about. I wouldn’t have minded writing about how R.A. Dickey might be kinda good, though!)

Hey, and while we’re here these posts are now sponsored! So go get your daily fantasy sports on at Draft Kings! C’mon! Try it!

Performance notes

Over the last 30 days, Marcus Stroman’s 38.3% hard contact rate is the twelfth worst in baseball, among 106 qualified starting pitchers. Most of us wouldn’t have needed such a stat to know that he’s been getting hit hard, because that’s been plain as fuck, but what a number like that can do, however, is give some context that should make us feel a little more comfortable about the ugliness that’s been going on. Stroman’s name on that particular leaderboard at FanGraphs falls between Jon Lester and Jacob deGrom. Cole Hamels has been worse. Jose Fernandez has been worse. Danny Salazar, Chris Tillman, Gio Gonzalez, and Hisashi Iwakuma haven’t been much better.

Extremely good pitchers, in other words, can run into stretches like the one Stroman is currently having. And Stroman doesn’t even have the benefit of those hard hit balls finding gloves, either, as his .397 BABIP over that stretch stands out even among this hard-hit group.

That isn’t to say his performance so far hasn’t been a concern, because obviously it has, but he’s maybe not quite as lost as it feels.

* * *

It’s obviously been a slog for Russell Martin this season, and it hasn’t yet totally felt like he’s coming out of it. However, over the course of the Jays four straight New-York-or-Boston series (which is a sample that very generously includes four home runs), Martin has been terrific: a 171 wRC+, which has brought his season number all the way up to 49 *COUGH*, with a slash line of .286/.359/.657 over eleven games (ten starts). The walk rate (7.7%) is a little low, but at least the strikeout rate (20.5%) isn’t insane (and is actually within his typical range). With a BABIP of .261 over the span, it’s not batted ball luck that’s driving this success, either (hint: it’s those unsustainable power numbers, like his .371 ISO). So… yeah! Keep on doing what you’re doing, Russ.

* * *

Edwin Encarnacion is really heating up, as well, having put up a .279/.373/.558 line (149 wRC+) over the four series himself, with a couple of big home runs at his future home ballpark this weekend *COUGH*. That said, were it not for Marco, I’d probably argue that the biggest performance for the Jays this weekend came from the fans who made the trip down to Boston. Incredible stuff! Almost as incredible as my pandering!

Worth a read…

Aaron Sanchez didn’t pitch over the weekend (he will on Tuesday), but he sure is still worth reading about — especially if you’re going to make it Ben Nicholson-Smith’s latest on him at Sportsnet, which not only highlights how outstanding Sanchy has been, but how his team-announced innings limit is looming. Sanchez wants to stay in the rotation all year he says, and the Jays still have ways to get creative about suppressing his innings (especially around the All-Star break, it’s noted), but the question as to what they’re going to do here is only going to get louder as the season progresses. At least as long as the success continues — and so far it’s shown no signs of stopping.

If I’m being honest, I’d probably prefer to not point entirely to pieces from Sportsnet here, but they did have a couple other great ones this week, with Shi Davidi looking at Jose Bautista’s body-maintenance regimen and how he dominates that like he does fastballs that catch too much of the plate, and Arden Zwelling reporting from Buffalo on Dalton Pompey, who is still looking to find consistency in his game, and offers this not-exactly-uplifting money quote: “I feel as though one day I can be the best player on the field, and then the next day I’m just totally lost.” You’ll come away more encouraged than that makes it sound, though, I’m pretty sure. At least, you will if you ignore the fact that some of the stuff he says about learning to be a pro seems a little odd for a guy who was drafted way back in 2010.

What do you meme?

Gibby GIFs FTW

Also this:

I mean, come on Rangers bruh. Like, I completely do not get why Rangers people are so sore about the Blue Jays all the time.

Or… oh. Wait. Yes I do.

Next up…

Monday – Tuesday @ Tigers, 7:10 PM ET

Wednesday @ Tigers, 1:10 PM ET

Thursday – Friday vs. Orioles, 7:07 PM ET

Saturday – Sunday vs. Orioles, 1:07 PM ET

A big series next weekend with an O’s team we probably shouldn’t be as dismissive of as we really, really want to be (or is that just me?), but the Jays have to get through Detroit first. However, with Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd due to start the first two games of the series against the Tigers, it’s not exactly like they’re going to have to be RoboCop to do so. Let’s do this!

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  • Steve02

    Credit to the new regime? They ended 2015 with only Stroman in the rotation and Hutch as an option (now he’s a valuable #6) and no one at AAA. Picked up Dickey’s option, brought back Estrada, brought in Happ and had confidence in Sanchez as a starter. And somehow that made a top rotation in 2016.

  • Barry

    They also deserve credit for re-signing Barney. I’m pretty sure they didn’t expect him to be an offensive force — he was just a depth signing — but holy hell, has he made Tulo’s injury easier to swallow.

  • sons_2.0

    Come on seriously? Credit the new regime for picking up Dickey’s option?? All I hear about ever is how AA’s worst move, that negates all the good ones, is the Dickey trade.

    Sanchez? They did everything they could to not use him in the rotation. He forced the issue and won out over Chavez and Floyd that the new regime brought in (and who have struggled as well as Storen). I’m not actually against those moves. Just saying what happened.

    Re-signing Estrada (who AA dug up and who undoubtedly was influenced by last year’s culture and the old QO) was a good layup that they made.

    Happ was a home run.

    But let’s not get carried away.

    • Barry

      With that argument, you seem to be holding Shapiro and Atkins accountable for the Dickey/Syndergaard trade, and I’m not sure why. You seem to think they should have declined the option because the trade was bad. You are aware, no doubt, that you can’t undo a trade by declining an option, so I’m having trouble understanding the criticism. And if you think picking up the option was a bad move, I really don’t know what to tell you.

      The trade, and the decision on whether or not to pick up the option, have nothing to do with each other.

      I would agree with you if you said that picking up Dickey’s option was a no brainer that any GM would have done, and it’s worthy of the “layup” designation, but you seem to think it was a bad move.

      • sons_2.0

        I understand the difference. But the irony of holding that against AA like it was the dumbest trade ever (which it was not at the time) and then applauding the simple and obvious move of picking up the option is a bit much.

        Will always love AA. Having said that, I am accepting of Shapiro and Atkins so far, overall. Definitely hoping to see them do well.

        But this team was handed on a platter (for the most part). It is still very much AA’s team. The new guys did a good job of making it a bit better at no real cost. Giving us a chance for at least one more year. AA’s team though (Pillar, Osuna, Sanchez, Martin, Estrada to a degree, Jose, Edwin, Donaldson, Travis, Saunders, Dickey, Stroman, Smoak to a degree).

        • Barry

          A couple of things there. First, are you referring to comments the above respondents have made in the past, re: the “dumbest trade ever”? I don’t know if steve02 has characterized it as such; I’m pretty sure Stoeten has not; I can say with certainty that I have not. So, unless I’ve missed something the others have said, I don’t think there is any “irony” unless you’re talking about a general feeling about the trade shared by many (though not all).

          Second, I believe (though I could be mistaken) you’re assuming that people who call the trade terrible do so because they think Dickey is a bad pitcher, and that’s not always the case. (Though there are those who, wrongly, think Dickey is a bad pitcher.) Many people who hate the trade do so because Syndergaard is now one of the best pitchers in the game.

          There’s an important distinction here: the quality of the trade, and the value of Dickey. If the trade is bad it is bad because Syndergaard is now so much better than Dickey (and younger), but “better than” doesn’t mean one is good and the other is terrible. In this case, one is good and the other is amazing.

          So, in picking up the option, it wasn’t a matter of saying “Is Dickey as good as Syndergaard.” It was a matter of saying “Is Dickey good.”

          This has been a stupidly long post, but it comes down to this: One can hate the trade AND think Dickey is a good pitcher. The two opinions can co-exist and do not necessarily contradict each other.

          • sons_2.0

            Agreed… like I said I understand the difference. And didn’t mean any of it as an attack on anyone here.

            Just saying the option was an obvious pickup. It’s meaningless to credit it at all to the new regime. That’s a formality thanks to the good deal AA signed him to (initial trade cost notwithstanding).

            Similarly, Estrada was a layup thanks to the QO noose. And was an AA pickup. And Sanchez was an AA guy that they kinda almost didn’t want starting.

            If you like this rotation, then thank AA (who also signed Osuna and drafted Stroman in a somewhat bold move).

            The Happ signing was the only distinct Shapiro move that worked out so far. Great move so far – makes my complaining about letting Price go so easily look foolish, especially with how Price has been so far.

            And even Happ is someone AA happened to trade for earlier. May have made it slightly easier to get him back here. But that’s Shapiro’s move and looks good. And he has handled the other moves sensibly. All ok so far. But it’s very much AA’s team still. That’s all I’m saying.

            When Jose and Edwin’s contracts run out, we’ll really start to see Shapiro’s mark. At that point we enter a new timeline whether we keep them or not.

  • Jays of Thunder

    On the whole, I think the Atkins/Shapiro regime (and LaCava who they all said would largely be directing things early in the offseason due to his familiarity with the organization) deserve credit. Obviously it’s still mainly AA’s roster, but most of the moves made in the winter are a net positive.

    The Estrada contract was handled quickly and it’s a great value deal. Happ is turning out as well as could be expected thus far. Even Storen is, I think, due for some regression. The Bruce trade would’ve been a stinker, but Biagini, Barney have both been great, and Grili could be a nice piece.

    They were handed a great roster, but a tough salary structure, and even with the uncertainty around Bats and EE, the fact that the rotation is mostly in good shape for next year for pretty cheap bodes well.