Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into the 2013 campaign, I labeled Marco Estrada as a potential sleeper candidate. I, along with many others, was positive he was destined to dominate. I was wrong – but not the “Good God what was I thinking” type of wrong. If not for the months of April and May (he only pitched four innings in June), I would’ve pulled a Babe Ruth and correctly called my shot. Last season, Estrada went 7-4 with a 3.87 ERA, which is respectable – I just expected a more electrifying season.
Because Estrada’s first and second half splits, among other things, were so different, I’m confident in calling him a sleeper once again. In fact, I believe the Milwaukee Brewers will attempt to extend his contract (he’s a free agent in 2016) after they witness the season he’s about to put forth.
With expectations high, Estrada failed to meet them during the first half of the season. It was only after he returned from a strained hamstring, that landed him on the disabled list, that he turned things around. See the table below.
After being reinstated from the disabled list, it’s almost as if Estrada turned on a switch that made him unhittable. Among starters who pitched at least 50 innings in the second half, Estrada churned out the eighth-best ERA.
Another split that baffles me is his Home ERA versus Road ERA. Usually, pitchers are much more comfortable within the confines of their home ballpark – but not Estrada – not in 2013 at least.
Like his first/second half splits, his home vs. road earned run average were vastly different. Granted, Miller Park is hitter-friendly, but that never seemed to bother Estrada before. He owns a career home ERA of 3.94 and a road ERA of 4.39. It seems that 2013 was fluky in this regard.
Because Estrada’s arsenal is filthy, he has the ability to punch out ten batters a game. He struck out 118 in 128 innings in 2013 and only allowed 29 walks. Limiting home runs – which he did in the second half – will determine whether or not he takes a step forward in 2014.
For too long, Estrada has been icy hot – he’s either light-outs or crushed. That needs to end. He’s too good of a pitcher to be blasted like he is sometimes. If he can carry the momentum he grasped towards the end of 2013 into this upcoming season, he has a legitimate chance of holding the lowest ERA in the Brewers rotation.