Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 Brett Cecil

Is Brett Cecil an ace-in-the-making, or is he a #3 starter pitching over his head?

Bluebird Banter had a nice write-up about Cecil a month ago that is definitely worth a read. Fangraphs also had a good piece about him in early June. Both articles support the idea that Cecil has turned a corner and is a different pitcher than he was last year, when he shot out of the gate fast but then fizzled nearly as quickly.

Fangraphs point about Cecil's change is dead on. Cecil has thrown so many changes that he's giving batters another pitch to look at and making his low 90s fastball look 2-3 MPH faster by comparison. Bluebird Banter's point about Cecil's G/F ratio was a good one...and holds up even more as I write this a month later. Cecil is generating more grounders than flyballs, which means he's really been throwing up a lot of rug munchers over the last three weeks.

Cecil's FIP and ERA are almost identical, so I wouldn't expect much in the way of regression. I wouldn't expect him to get much better, though. His K/IP rate speak to a good or very good pitcher and not a dominant one. His BABIP rate is mostly supported by a low LD%, but not entirely so; some mild regression to the mean should be anticipated. He's murdering lefties, and while Cecil's stuff will continue to give them fits, a 379 OPS against simply isn't sustainable from a starting pitcher.

The pitcher Cecil reminds me of at this developmental point in his career is James Shields circa 2007. Cecil doesn't rely on his change as much as Shields did in '07 - nor is his change as dominant as Shields' was - but it is evolving into Cecil's bread-and-butter pitch. For a young pitcher, developing the confidence to trust an off-speed offering as your plus pitch takes time, and it appears that Cecil has arrived at this point.

Like Shields, I don't expect Cecil to ever put up a season with an ERA much better than a 3.50. He's good, but doesn't have the dominance markers that would suggest a sub-3 season is in the offing. That leaves me thinking that Cecil is a #2 or #3a type. This still makes him a solid guy to have in A.L.-only leagues, and if you placed a modest FAAB bid on him in late April you have to be pretty happy at the moment.

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