Marco Estrada: Is This the Start of Something Special?


Marco Estrada: Is This the Start of Something Special?

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It’s fair to say Marco Estrada is probably enjoying life right now. Recently, the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher has been in the kind of form not seen since the previous century.

Wednesday’s performance against the Tampa Bay Rays represented the second-consecutive start, where he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The last time this was done was back in 1988, by Dave Stieb.

Ironically, Stieb was also playing for the Blue Jays at the time.  The 57-year old holds the franchise record as the only pitcher to record a no-hitter, which he did in 1990.

Estrada finally had his second bid at his own no-hitter broken up by Logan Forsythe. However, he was philosophical after the game, despite missing out on a second chance at history.

As he told Gregor Chisholm and the rest of the media: “It’s tough to do. There are so many good hitters out there, every lineup is really good.”

Jun 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) throws against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

As if to highlight the 2005 sixth round draft pick’s sensational afternoon, he also became the fourth pitcher in franchise history to have at least 10 strikeouts. When you can put your name alongside Stieb, Rogers Clemens and Roy Halladay, you’re in some pretty damn impressive company.

It’s often tough for us mere mortals to understand the mentality that goes into an effort like this, but Estrada attempted to give an insight to Chisholm: “There are days when you feel better than others, and you kind of know it’s going to be a good day when you go out and you’re locating pitches.

“I’m sure that’s how most pitchers are. I think anybody could do it, but it takes some luck on your side to get this done, and maybe next time I’ll have a little more luck on my side I guess.”

Of course, what shouldn’t be lost in all this is the significance of Estrada’s recent performances for the Blue Jays as a whole. The starting rotation’s struggles this season are well-documented, and the Sonora, Mexico native’s efforts couldn’t have come at a better time.

The question is, does this represent the start of something special for the pitcher, or is it equivalent to a Z-list celebrity’s 15 minutes of fame? At least one baseball analyst believes it’s the latter.

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Dayn Perry of writes that the main thing going against Marco Estrada is that…well….he’s Marco Estrada! On top of this, he says a consistent leap in performance would go against the norm for a pitcher who is just days away from turning 32.

(Even Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made reference to Estrada’s age, albeit in a more positive/playful manner: “He’s an old veteran war horse, you know? He just keeps plowing along.”)

Now it is easy to dismiss Perry as just another American who is anti-Canadian, but he at least attempts to justify his comments with some analysis: “Estrada hasn’t added velocity.

“As a percentage of batters faced, he’s striking out less and walking more than his respective career norms. His ground-ball and fly-ball tendencies are mostly unchanged.

“He’s enjoyed a nice mini-stretch of batted-ball outcomes. (However), those are things extremely prone to random variation — i.e., blind luck — in the short-run. ”

In the interest of fairness, Perry does actually have some positive things to say about the former Washington Nationals player: “Sure, there are things to like.

“He’s started throwing his cutter more. His changeup still has a good velocity gap relative to his fastball, and it’s showing a bit more drop these days.”

Overall. whether we want to admit it or not, Perry is probably right about Estrada – the odds are he won’t be able to keep up his recent insane form. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it while it lasts.

Ultimately, the Blue Jays would like to see him become a reliable/consistent starter at the back-end of their rotation. If Estrada can do this, combined with R.A. Dickey and company getting their act together, this could be the year we finally see Toronto return to the postseason.