Struggling Pitcher Support

Jonathan Daniel

Are you struggling Edwin Jackson or Marco Estrada? You're not alone.

CHURCH AUDITORIUM – 8:00 PM, MONDAY

Rows of folding chairs are set up across the tile floor. The host steps up to the podium and asks everyone to take their seats. A man finishes putting sugar in his coffee. Two women finish their conversation, hug and sit on opposite ends of the room. As the last few people shuffle in, the chatter in the audience dies down.

HOST

Good evening, everyone. My name is Josh and I’m a Marco-holic.

AUDIENCE

(In Unison)

Hi, Josh.

JOSH

We have a few administrative things to take care of first and then we will hear from our guest speakers for the remainder of the evening. To those of you who have not been to Marco-holics Anonymous before, welcome. We’re glad to have you here with us tonight. Anyone celebrating their spot start anniversary, come get a chip.

(An older man walks up front to collect his chip)

Congratulations on spotting a good matchup. Is anyone celebrating two starts?

(No one comes forward)

Anyone celebrating sitting Estrada this past week, please come forward and get your chip.

(Two men – one in his teens, another in his early thirties – come forward to share an embrace and collect their chip)

We have two guests with us tonight. Sharon is the president of our local MASE chapter and Zack is here to share with us about his battle with Marco and how he’s handling this season. Without any further ado, please give your attention to Sharon.

SHARON

(Steps up to the podium)

Hi, everyone. As Josh said, I’m the president of the MASE chapter in Central Pennsylvania and I’ll only take a small amount of your time tonight. For anyone who doesn’t know, MASE stands for Mothers Against Starting Edwin. It was February of 2012, the first time my son drafted Edwin Jackson. He’ll tell you that he knew the risks but that his friends had done it before and doing it just once couldn’t be that bad. He started Edwin Jackson only in favorable match ups at first but the better Jackson pitched, the bolder my son grew. Soon he was starting Jackson against all opponents. He’ll tell you that the summer of 2012, while he was on Edwin, was one of the best of his life. Jackson won 10 games for the Nationals and was second in the league in swinging strike percentage. Better still, his walk rate was better than average for the second straight year. My son was hooked.

We started to notice a change in my son in early April of 2013. He was distant, irritable and spent most of his time in his room staring at box scores. Finally, one day while my son was at work, my husband went into his room. We’re not the types of parents to pry into our children’s business but we were scared. And what we found was worse than we’d thought. In his desk drawer were print outs of each one of Edwin Jackson’s 2013 starts riddled with statistics and words I’d never heard my son say. He drafted Edwin Jackson in two leagues this year.

We sat him down when he came home from work that day and confronted him with the papers. At first he tried to deny it. He said he didn’t have a problem. He said that Jackson was just unlucky. That his BABIP was .353 and his strand rate was only 52%. My son said that Jackson was striking hitters out at the same rate and wasn’t giving up home runs. He told us how he wanted to quit but when Jackson signed a three year deal with the Cubs this offseason, he couldn’t help it. Jackson was staying in the National League and would finally have a semi-permanent home. His strikeout potential was too much to resist.

We are slowly weaning our son off of Edwin Jackson, starting by pitching him only against favorable opponents. If Jackson continues to struggle, we will have to take more drastic measures and bench or drop him. Studies have shown that over 80% of Edwin Jackson owners will relapse after he strings together a few good starts. Until he proves that he is able to limit walks and hard contact, Jackson should not be in your starting lineup. I understand how difficult it can be to resist playing him, but please utilize your support groups and know that someone is there to help you. Your decisions affect more than just you. Thank you for your time.

JOSH

(Hugs Sharon and steps up to the podium)

Thanks, Sharon. Next, we’ll hear from Zack.

ZACK

(Walks up to the podium from the back of the room and shakes Josh’s hand)

Thanks, Josh. Hi, everyone. My name is Zack and I’m a Marco-holic.

AUDIENCE

(In unison)

Hi,Zack.

ZACK

I picked up Marco Estrada in an NL Only league last year and, boy, did I feel great as he helped my team win the league. I started writing about fantasy baseball soon after the season ended and I was shouting Marco’s name from the roof tops. Coming off his 2012 performance, I had all kinds of reasons to be on the Marco Estrada band wagon. He had a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.93. His xFIP was 3.51 and his SIERA was 3.23. He started throwing a cutter and his changeup was more effective. He was throwing more first pitch strikes and getting batters to chase pitches out of the zone more often than he had in previous years.

I could go on and on with reasons for why I loved Marco Estrada. And it was all smiles and laughs while he was pitching well. But I got out of control and I became a slave to him. I kept him the NL Only league and drafted him in two other leagues. I was in deep.

As the 2013 season started, it only got worse. Estrada struck out eight hitters in five innings against the Rockies in his first game of the season. He gave up four runs on two home runs, but what was the big deal? It was the Rockies, their offense is potent. I started to come up with rationalizations like this more and more. I would say things like, "Miller Park is one of the best hitters’ parks in the league and he’s still got the swing and miss stuff."

But then I started to realize that he’d given up a home run in all seven of his starts this year and eleven on the year already. He’s always been homer prone but this is ridiculous.

They say you can’t really recover until you’ve hit rock bottom and, on May 5th, I hit it. Hard. I own Estrada in a 16-team head-to-head league in which we have a few extra pitching categories, one of them being opponent batting average. We set our lineups daily and on Sunday I had a decision to make. I was losing all rate stat categories early in the week so my plan was to start all of my pitchers and ensure that I won strikeouts and, hopefully, wins. But, come Sunday morning, I was winning ERA, WHIP and BAA.

So what was I to do? I could have benched Estrada, hoping that Brandon Morrow, who was on my opponent’s team, didn’t throw a gem or I could pitch Estrada and hope that he did well against St. Louis. So what did I do? I let my affliction get the best of me. I puffed my chest out and said, "I believe in Estrada and if I can’t win with the team I drafted, I don’t want to win. I’d rather lose like a man than win like a coward." Of course I spent most of Sunday in a tailspin after seeing Estrada give up eight earned runs on six hits in only 31/3 innings. Sure, he struck out five batters but he also walked five. Needless to say, I lost all the rate categories that week and I had finally hit rock bottom.

That’s why I’m here tonight. To tell you that you don’t have to go the same route I went. There were a lot of great times when I was starting Marco. His start against the Cubs in early April was dominant. He has 39 strikeouts in 382/3 innings. But he just can’t keep the ball in the yard. However, there is hope. Estrada is generating more swings and misses than he did last year and more ground balls, too. He has a BABIP of .324 and a HR/FB ratio that is sure to drop some from 22.9%.

I’m not here to tell you how to run your fantasy team but to let you know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This struggle is all about control - Self-control, damage control and Marco Estrada’s control. If Estrada can reduce his walk rate and if he’s able to reduce the number of home runs he gives up, we may once again be able to count on him as a very good fantasy pitcher. And I truly believe that those days will come. But we need to be patient. Resist the urge to start Estrada in questionable matchups until he proves that he face the better lineups and succeed. Thank you for having me tonight.

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