Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brett Cecil Might be Back...Might

Cecil pitching in the 9th inning last night.
Picture via the awesome @James_in_to.
Coming into the 2010 season, some thought Brett Cecil was the top prospect in the Blue Jays organization(although he didn't actually qualify as a prospect after his major league stint in 2009). The reports on him were making fans giddy with excitement as this young lefty was getting set to hit the Majors for his first full season. He projected to be a middle of the rotation arm who could kill lefties and had good stuff that'd be able to lead him to a long career, hopefully with the Jays. And, he didn't disappoint in his 2010 sophomore campaign. He pitched 178.2 innings that year with a FIP of 4.03 leading to him being worth 2.5 WAR according to fWAR. Everything looked great coming into 2011, but his velocity diminished to averaging under 90MPH, and he was sent down after 4 starts. He came back at the end of June and pitched to a 4.30 ERA, but was still not the same. He didn't break camp with the team in 2012 due to more velocity and control problems, and when he was called back up for the first time, he didn't impress either all that much. But, when the Jays finally ditched the plan of having Cecil as a starter last September, things started to turn around for him. His results didn't exactly show it, but his velocity was back up consistently in the low 90's, and he was getting used to his role as a lefty killer out of the pen going into the off-season.

Cecil started an off-season program that helped fellow Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar come back from a few surgeries and a teaching job, to the major leagues. The goal was to get his velocity back where it was in the pre-2010 era, and hopefully by doing so become a more effective major league pitcher.

Cecil's velocity chart last night.
It worked. Cecil pitched a beautiful 1-2-3 inning in the ninth last night, but the results aren't what mattered at all. Cecil's pitches were working like they've never worked before. He threw 11 pitches, 3 four seam fastballs, 6 two seam or sinkers, 1 slider, and 1 curveball. Obviously, we're only looking at 11 pitches, which is an EXTREMELY SMALL SAMPLE, but you'd like to think this is a sign of things to come. All of the following numbers and graphs are courtesy of

Brett threw his four seamer 333 times in 2012, at an average velocity of 89.83 MPH. Last night, he threw it 3 times, and averaged 91.07 while topping out at 93.2. Pretty nice improvement over a year. It also had less movement, which might not be the best thing if you want to get hitters to whiff at it, but if you want pin point accuracy like Cecil is trying to achieve, it's not the worst thing that can happen.

Moving onto his sinker/two seamer. Brett averaged 88.51 MPH on that pitch in 2012 when he threw it 112 times. Last night, when he threw it 6 times? 93.28 MPH while touching 94 MPH. It also rose an extra 2 inches last night over 2012, so that's a good sign as well.

Then, his slider. A pitch Brett threw 53 times last season with a break of 0.13(down) and 1.14 horizontally(left from the batters perspective). Last night, on the pitch he got Drew Stubbs to strike out to record the first out of the ninth, it was 3.50 vertically, and 1.82 horizontally. Only one pitch, so obviously you can't deduce anything from it because of the sample,  but still a welcome sign.

Finally, his curveball. Behold, this GIF of the curve he threw last night.
Awesome. In 223 pitches last year, the curve had sank 5.92 inches and moved 1.93 left(batters view again). Last night(again, take it with a huge grain of salt because it was only one outing and one pitch), it sank 7.35 inches, and moved 3.37 left(batters view again). Another significant improvement. 

Now, I'm not saying that we can judge Brett Cecil based on one, 11 pitch performance. We can't. We can't say that Cecil's increased velocity will stay with him. We can't say that the increased movement on his sinker,slider, and curve aren't just results of luck or other independent factors. All we can say is that Brett looked good, and that all the changes we saw last night make sense. The velocity could be from the Delabar program. The movement could be from a slight change in mechanics or grip on the ball. 

I've always been a Cecil fan, and there's no doubt in my mind that he can't be an above average reliever for a long time. But, what if he can parlay that into a great reliever. Darren Oliver failed as a starter for a while before moving over to the pen. What if Brett Cecil has just done it earlier in his career, and will have the same type of success Darren has had? Only time will tell what the story with Cecil is, but if he keeps this pitching up, I'd think it won't be him being put on waivers in two weeks time when Brett Lawrie comes back from the disable list.

What did you think of Cecil last night? Leave your comments below!

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. Good analysis. Though I think this guy can and will be a fantastic reliever. Velocity, as you pointed out, is back up, and out of every thing that happen yesterday, he was some sort of bright light striking out the side and retiring all four batters.

    He has something that when he is on seem to be difficult for hitters to pick up. I think it is a combination of pitching intelligently, having hard to pick up stuff, and having great command. And now that his speed is up, and he mix it up more, making it that much more difficult for hitters.

    As you can remember, he was the AL killer all but two seasons ago. I do not care who you are, you cannot do that for a whole year without having talent. I think the relief role for him is perfect!!