Marco Estrada doesn't have 99 problems, he only has one. The home run. In 84 innings this year, he's turned in 74 strikeouts and 27 walks, which equates to very solid 21.2% and 7.7% strikeout and walk rates. Those are fine numbers for a starting pitcher and should equate to a nice season for Estrada, except for the fact that he's allowed 23 home runs. Oops.
Do the math and Estrada has a 2.46 HR/9 and a resulting 5.92 FIP which are both numbers that would make Helen Lovejoy ask "won't someone please think of the children?!" Avert your eyes. But I'm here to tell you that Estrada's insane home run rate is a mirage. Don't get me wrong, Estrada is going to allow plenty of home runs, but his 1.50 career HR/9 is the much better bet going forward.
Estrada is an extreme fly ball pitcher and he's always been that way, but far too many of them are carrying over the fence. He currently has a 18.7 HR/FB%, which is comically high and unsustainable, but we can dig a little deeper and show you just how unlucky he's been. Estrada's not an elite arm, but this is one of those times where xFIP is your friend.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker tells us that the average home run travels about 395-400 feet. This year, Estrada has allowed nine home runs that traveled 380 or fewer feet and four that traveled 370 or fewer feet. The average home run is hit at 103 mph. Estrada has allowed five home runs at slower than 98 mph.
At a rate of 1.50 HR/9, Estrada would have allowed about 14 home runs and xFIP agrees. The tracker says nine of his 23 home runs are "just enough" or "lucky." If you subtract nine from 23, you get 14, which is very convenient. Estrada is running into some bad luck.
He's certainly allowed a lot of home runs this year, but he's not this homer prone. If the Brewers stick it out, things will get back to normal. I mean, just look at this:
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, a contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow @NeilWeinberg44