When the Jays announced it was Brett Cecil coming up to make Brandon Morrow’s start on Sunday, I wrote that a new perspective on sequencing, gleaned from the teachings of Sal Fasano, suggested Brett Cecil was well on his way to becoming a slop-tossing junkballer. Unable to count on his fastball due to declining velocity and command, he would flip breaking balls and changeups in at an uncommon rate out of desperation.
The Brett Cecil we saw Sunday afternoon was not quite that, I am somewhat relieved to report. Both Cecil and manager John Farrell mentioned his fastball command a key after the fact. The fastball was indeed the pitch Cecil relied on most en route to five innings of five strikeout, one walk, two run ball. A win and everything!
Cecil offered first pitch fastballs (four-seam or what look like two-seam or sinkers to me) 14 of the 21 batters he faced. I have the pitches split 8 FF/6 FS, which is interesting because he threw the two-seamer for a strike only once. Overall, his pitch mix was 25 fastballs, 15 two-seamers, 15 cutters, 19 curves, and 13 changeups. As Cecil mentioned post-game, both home runs came against cutters. Some cutters look like sliders but, for simplicity’s sake, let’s call them cutters and move on.
When Cecil fell behind, he largely stayed with the fastball to get him out of trouble – with one or fewer strikes and two or more balls, he threw fastball almost exclusively. Cecil spread it around when ahead in the count, throwing a good mix of all his offerings when the count was in his favor.
Consider this pitch chart I lovingly crafted with MLB Gameday data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz’s database (click to enlarge.)
As far as Cecil’s new sequencing plan…you got me. This all seems pretty standard, as far as I can see. Try to get ahead with the fastball and hope from there. He started a few hitters (Ruiz, Pence & Rollins) by doubling up on soft stuff against a few hitters but mostly stuck with fastball/sinker in an attempt to get ahead. He started Carlos Ruiz, arguably the Phillies best hitter, with two soft offerings twice in a row. More Phillies saw first pitch offspeed stuff the second time through the order, as one might have guessed.
In his final frame, Cecil faced the top of the Phillies order for the third time. In this frame, with runners on base, a tiring Cecil offered a glimpse of his junk balling future. He doubled up on the curve against John Mayberry but the Phillies left fielder lined the second curve for a single (after homering on the cutter earlier in the game.) A steady diet of slop got Cecil out of jam after a walk and error put two men on for Hunter Pence.
A satisfactory outing for Cecil, I suppose. Five strikeouts are nice but he coaxed just six swinging strikes on the afternoon. As mentioned Friday, the Phillies rather meagre offense provided a soft landing spot for Cecil’s 2012 debut. Can he continue getting away with it against better lineups? Doubtful.
I truly expected him to pitch “backwards” more than he did. Maybe it will emerge as he faces better lineups and tries getting the same guys out more than twice in a day? Who knows? The state of the rotation being what it is, Cecil is going to get multiple opportunities to show if he can make the teachings of Sal stick. Heaven help us…