Marco Estrada turned in a great start in a big spot on Saturday, throwing 5 innings of 1-hit, shutout baseball in front of a national audience (well, in name only). Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised — he does have the stuff to be successful in the big leagues, and he’s turned in quality spot starts in the past.
On Saturday, Estrada gave Pittsburgh a steady diet of fastballs, throwing four-seamers in 41 of his 64 pitches. It was by far his best pitch if you want to look at linear weights, and as usual, the pitch had a nice bit of tailing action. Estrada’s changeup was also very effective, thanks in large part to it having a very similar flight pattern to his fastball — only with an average difference of 14 mph:
Of course, it does help that he was facing the Pirates. That’s not meant to be a knock on them, but Estrada’s biggest problems this year have been with walks and surrendering home runs. The Pirates, on average, do not get on base (5th lowest OBP in the majors) and do not hit home runs (5th lowest HR total in the majors). It was a very good matchup for Estrada.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t pitch well or that the start should be shrugged off as no big deal. He was, though, put in a very good situation to succeed, and he did just that. At the very least, he quieted some concerns about how the rotation would look without Chris Narveson filling the 5th spot for a couple weeks.