After an expected three day hiatus, “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” is back as we are 41 days away from Opening Day.
I call the hiatus expected because both 44 and 42 are retired by the Milwaukee Brewers and while 43 used to be worn by Randy Wolf, it was taken over by bullpen coach Lee Tunnell after he joined the coaching staff back during the 2012 season.
Anyway, on to bidness.
As mentioned, we’re 41 days away so let’s focus our collective attention on…
The 30-year-old Mexican native began his 2013 reporting to Brewers camp but quickly joined his Brewers teammate Yovani Gallardo by leaving camp to participate in the World Baseball Classic. He didn’t have the results he wanted in his one start for Team Mexico and reported back to Maryvale Baseball Park ready to improve on 2012’s solid if truncated campaign.
Unfortunately, more health issues were in the cards for Estrada in 2013.
After missing more than a month of 2012 due to a right quadriceps injury suffered while running the bases, Estrada pitched just 138.1 innings across 29 appearances (23 starts). In 2013, Estrada could only muster 128.0 IP over 21 starts. That was because of a strained left hamstring suffered in a start on June 3rd.
It was especially frustrating because I remember after that game that Estrada told the media that he didn’t think it was very serious at all and was optimistic about making his next start in five days. He wouldn’t pitch again for Milwaukee until August 7th — over two months later.
And that’s been the major problem with Estrada to this point. He puts up good numbers. Very solid rates, a strong set of peripherals to go along with his traditional stats and advanced metrics. For example, he posted a 3.87 ERA in 2013 nearly matching his FIP of 3.86. He was a little down on his strikeout rate last year, but improved on his WHIP in posting a career best 1.078.
So the thing is, when Estrada was on the mound, he was putting up solid performances more often than not. He had 12 “Quality Starts” and only five starts I would consider truly bad, and one of those was the game in which he hurt him hamstring.
Estrada also finished the season very strong. He had six quality starts in the nine he made after returning from the disabled list, including his last four of the year. Over his last six starts he struck out 44 in 41.2 innings pitched and walked only 10 total.
He’s a quality rotation option for the latter half of a rotation and the Brewers have been capitalizing on that when they can. Barring injury, Estrada should break camp firmly entrenched as a starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Whether they throw him fourth or fifth will probably have as much to do with who pitches third in Ron Roenicke’s rotation as it will anything else.
Wily Peralta has the higher ceiling and he also throws much harder, but he’s much more inconsistent and has had some trouble getting out of the gates the last two seasons. Some managers enjoy mixing up styles of pitching in their rotation. If Kyle Lohse pitches third, for example, that style of thinking would lead to Peralta fourth with Estrada going fifth.
Regardless of who he follows though, Estrada needs to be in the rotation. I’ve made no secret that I prefer Estrada to start but the numbers just flat out back it up. Here’s a direct link to his career splits by role (Starter vs Reliever) at the infinitely useful Baseball-Reference.com. The sample size as reliever is a little smaller, but it’s a clear distinction.
Let me bottom line it.
Estrada needs to start. He will start, barring injury. He’ll contribute solid numbers and help the Milwaukee Brewers win baseball games.
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #45 Alfredo Figaro
- #46 Hiram Burgos
- #47 Rob Wooten
- #49 Yovani Gallardo
- #50 José De La Torre
- #51 Wei-Chung Wang
- #52 Jimmy Nelson
- #53 Brandon Kintzler
- #54 Michael Blazek
- #58 Ariel Peña
- #59 Zach Duke
- #60 Kevin Shackelford
- #61 Jason Rogers
- #63 Brooks Hall
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Irving Falu
- #66 Robinzon Diaz
- BONUS COLUMN: #77 David Goforth, #76 Kevin Mattison, #75 Mitch Haniger, #74 Michael Olmstead, #73 Kentrail Davis, #72 Cameron Garfield, #71 Adam Weisenburger, #70 Dustin Molleken, #67 Eugenio Velez