Marco Estrada had the pitcher’s version of the season teammate Carlos Gomez had in 2012: solid, sporadic first-half play followed by second-half dominance. In 12 starts from July 30 until the end of the season, Estrada went 5-3 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.66 K/9, and 1.91 BB/9 in 70.2 innings.
He featured four pitches — four-seamer, curveball, and change-up — at least 17% of the time, and he averaged a 12.4-mph gap between his fastball and change. Interestingly, his change-up checked in at a tick below league average (-0.13 RAA per 100 pitches), but his four-seamer was a well-above average pitch at 0.99 RAA per 100. That rate was good enough for 13th among the 111 pitchers who threw at least 130 innings in 2012.
But Estrada’s real strength is his ability to limit walks. Much of that is how often he used his fastball when he was behind in the count (particularly versus RHP). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, any starting pitcher that varies three or more pitches with the frequency Estrada does is OK with me, especially if they have the impressive K:BB ratio Estrada boasts. In his first full season as a starter, I expect big things.
At a Glance
Strengths: ERA, WHIP, L, K, K/9, BB, BB/9
Neutral: W, QS
Best-case scenario: Chris Sale (CHW)
Likely scenario: Lance Lynn (STL), Tim Lincecum (SF), Jake Peavy (CHW)
Worst-case scenario: Ivan Nova (NYY)
Marco Estrada 2013 Fantasy Projection
If only Estrada was a good bet for 180-200 innings, then we’d certainly be looking at a special player in 2013. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown the ability to go deep into games. Last year Estrada made 23 starts but averaged just 5.2 innings per start, and only a hair more (but still under six) during his aforementioned 12-start stretch of dominance.
While his ERA, WHIP, and K/9 are all very good-to-great, it’s important to know how much his physical innings restriction affects his value. According to our ERA value conversion chart, Estrada’s projected 3.51 ERA over 177 innings is worth about the same as a pitcher with a 3.56 ERA over 210 innings, so there isn’t much difference there. The real difference comes in the form of the counting stats, where Estrada’s workload limits him to about 165-175 strikeouts. The higher end of that range could be considered a strength, but it’s not the picture of roto dominance. And if he can’t go deep into games, he hurts his chances at racking up wins.
As for the negatives, Estrada is prone to fly balls. I don’t like that when drafting pitchers, especially in Miller Park where hitters get about a 30% boost in homers. Since the most recent new park opened (Target Field in 2010), Brewers pitchers have endured the seventh-highest HR/FB rate in the league (10.7%). That rate accounts for Milwaukee playing half their games in Miller Park as well as half their games on the road, so when looking at a Milwaukee starter’s HR/FB rate, 10.7% is the number you should compare it to.
That worry aside, I love Estrada, and he’s definitely someone I would gamble on in any fantasy format.