Archive for the ‘Brett Cecil’ Category

Talkin’ Cecil

“Eighty-seven to eighty-nine miles per hour is the new norm, it appears, and the reality is that means Cecil’s now a back of the rotation pitcher,” writes Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail in one of several pieces about Brett Cecil to have hit the web in the last couple of days. They come as the Jays’ lefty continues struggling with what some might call  might call his fastball velocity, while others might say he’s merely working on the ability to command his eminently Cole Hamels-like “stuff.”

No, really. That’s what what was written by Mike Wilner at his Fan 590 blog, apparently in agreement with his radio colleague Alan Ashby– and intentional or not, for my taste, it’s the kind of comment that, unfortunately, wades a little dangerously close to blatant homerism territory, especially, I’m sure it will be pointed out, on the part of guys who draw a paycheque from the same company that owns the team. On Twitter, this madness was later both defended, by Wilner, and derided, by Keith Law, and pretty much everyone else, the real kill shot coming from our friend Drew over at Getting Blanked, who went all Pitch F/X-y to show two rather different arsenals– in both tenor and quality.

And it’s the quality of Cecil’s arsenal that continues to give legs to rumours about the Jays looking for pitching reinforcements, despite the club and the pitcher himself putting on brave faces and saying all the right things.

“As far as the body goes, I’m even better than I wanted to be,” Cecil told Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com after his start on Sunday. “As long as everything feels good I’m going to be happy. There’s going to come a point, who knows what game, it’s not always going to be there and that’s where the hard work starts on the mound. Pick and choose your spots you’ve got to work on, but hopefully it doesn’t come for a while and things keep going well.”

“If Brett’s in the 88-91 mph range that’s probably what we expect from him,” John Farrell added. “But more importantly is the location of it and how it’s travelling through the strikezone. If it’s on a downward plane, his changeup in behind it becomes that much more deceptive.”

It all sounds nice, yet rumblings about dissatisfaction among Jays management continue.

“As the Jays try to create more room for their top young pitchers, there’s no question Cecil could be available in a deal. He is one of those former top prospects who hasn’t lived up to expectations, and he hasn’t had an especially good spring,” writes Nick Cafardo in Sunday’s Boston Globe.

And Monday evening Danny Knobler– the Knobler!– of CBS Sports added more fuel to the fire:

So… where there’s smoke there’s fire? I don’t know. I don’t know if we can quite draw a line leading from the Jays’ rumoured continued interest in upgrading the rotation– something they were unable, or unwilling, to do over the winter– to the issues Cecil may or may not be having this spring. But with Kyle Drabek looking good so far, and Dustin McGowan being out of options and all but assured an opportunity to take the ball out of the gate and run with it, it makes it tempting to assume that Cecil’s spot is the one the club is most interested in upgrading on.

Not that there are many opportunities for clubs to upgrade their rotation at this point in the year. But I’m sure that’s not going to stop anybody from writing about it, is it? Myself included, I suppose. Ugh.

Alex Anthopoulos was on the Fan590 this morning with Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt (audio here), and while a lot of it was typical Anthopoulosian blather, he did admit that he overstepped when he proclaimed last year that Adeiny Hechavarria was a shortstop, end of story, and he had a few things to say that were definitely worth noting– even if we don’t necessarily believe what he’s saying. Actually, especially if we don’t.

Part One of Three – Brett Cecil

“I think Cecil has looked outstanding,” Anthopoulos insisted, after being asked about the rumours swirling in the vacuum created by the dearth of information he allows to become public about his club. “His changeup is great. Obviously his committed himself, his body is outstanding [note: rawwwr!]. He’s always been a great athlete, but he’s even that much more athletic now, with the added weight loss.

“His velocity’s fine. People like to make something of it, but Brett Cecil’s never been a power guy.”

Anthopoulos notes that Cecil’s strikeout rates have come down precipitously since he was striking out over a batter per inning at high-A and double-A in 2008, but he attributes that to the increase in competition as he’s moved up the ladder. He also says that he looks at Cecil’s rate stats from his successful 2010 as being in line with his 2011 numbers, and that run support and outfield defence did him in to a large extent.

Anthopoulos is right that Cecil has never been a true power guy, but he’s not giving us the full story here, either.

In a 2009 piece for ESPN.com Jason Grey notes Cecil’s two-pitch arsenal, a “low-90s two-seamer” and a wipeout slider. It’s not what anybody except maybe Cecil himself would call a power pitcher– in a 2009 interview with Baseball Prospectus said, “I’d say that I’m a power pitcher, yet I’m not overpowering. I don’t have a 96 or a 97 [mph fastball], I’m more low 90s, maybe 93 or 94 at times. So I’m a power pitcher, but not an overpowering power pitcher.”

It’s also not where he’s at now, either.

Interestingly, the outstanding changeup didn’t develop until later, as Shi Davidi noted in a piece for Sportsnet last March.

“I first came in to pro ball and I was throwing 90-95 and I couldn’t get my changeup below 88. So I fought and battled myself, battled different grips and just nothing worked,” Cecil told him. “Finally I found one that worked in double-A, I got it from Robbie Ray.”

The key, Davidi wrote, is that “the new grip lopped off about two m.p.h., from the pitch speed, dropping the average from 83.3 to 81.4. That made for about a nine m.p.h. separation between his average change and average fastball, and given that his velocity tops out at 94-95, he has the ability to widen the gap and keep hitters even more off-balance.”

The previous spring Marc Hulet wrote at FanGraphs that ”in just his third MLB start of the year, Cecil pitched eight innings, allowed one hit, walked two batters and struck out 10, which was a career high (in 21 MLB appearances). He mixed his four-pitch repertoire effectively and dials his fastball up to 93 mph, when needed.”

So… OK, yes, we all know that Cecil threw a bit harder coming out of college, and saw a drop in velocity last year from which he didn’t recover– though in his last start of 2011 he was sitting over 91 for an inning or so, and broke 92 once, before settling in around 88 or 89. But, knowing that, given what the Davidi piece says about Cecil’s success relying on the gap between his fastball and changeup velocity, I’m not entirely sure why we shouldn’t at least be a little concerned.

Maybe if his changeup had a drop in velocity that mirrored the fastball’s it would mitigate it, but according to the Pitch F/X data at FanGraphs, that wasn’t the case.

Of course, if he can keep the ball down and command the strike zone, there’s no reason Cecil can’t be successful. Just maybe not as successful as he could be with the velocity he showed prior to last year– which, let’s not forget, it’s not impossible for him to get back to, especially since we really need to keep reminding ourselves that it’s still quite early.

And in that sense, I entirely get why Anthopoulos is acting unconcerned. What sticks out at me, somewhat ominously, though, from looking around at these old articles, however, is a Keith Law chat back when Cecil was in the minors, where he writes that it’s “so far so good” for Brett’s conversion from college reliever to pro starter, “but he threw a LOT of breaking balls in college and was used heavily and strangely.”

I’m not saying he’s hurt– and I should hope not, seeing as he threw over 200 innings between the Majors and Las Vegas last year– but… maybe it’s just that it’s spring and there’s fuck all else to talk about, it’s just, the whole thing genuinely is a little bit strange, isn’t it?

Here’s a small nugget of a tidbit that was buried in Jeff Blair’s Henderson Alvarez piece for the Globe and Mail this morning:

“Sources maintain the Blue Jays will not add another pitcher with a significant financial commitment at this time; that they are more likely to add a stop-gap, innings-eating starter if Drabek, Cecil or McGowan aren’t up to it.”

If the statement weren’t made far less concrete by his suggestion that the club would be “more likely” to add a stop-gap, I’d suggest that it pretty much rules out the notion that the Jays are still pushing hard for Gavin Floyd, while wonder if Joe Blanton– at $8.5-million, minus a couple million that the Phillies have reportedly indicated they’re willing to kick in– counts as a “significant financial commitment.”

As it is, it’s just… well, it’s kinda what we ought to have suspected, but still nebulous enough to make us wonder just what the Jays are up to on this front that we truly don’t know.

Of course, maybe all this speculation is entirely unnecessary, as Blair notes earlier in the piece that “Brett Cecil has done well this spring, both in terms of results and adhering to the mechanical principles being stressed by manager John Farrell and pitching coach Bruce Walton.” The velocity, or lack thereof, doesn’t seem to be a big concern for the club, at least outwardly.

And, contrary to my nudges toward conspiracy theory, Gregor Chisholm tweets that the reason Cecil’s velocity yesterday was so shrouded in mystery was that– as I kinda suspected– pretty much all of the Toronto media was at the Canada wank in Tampa, having passed on the two-plus hour bus ride (in normal traffic) to Fort Myers. Fair enough. Gregor says he’ll have a follow-up piece on Cecil’s start later today.

For all the ballyhoo about Brett Cecil’s velocity this spring, I figured that after yesterday’s start against the Twins we’d have some new data to scrutinize. But damn it if I haven’t been looking all over the place to find some information on where Cecil’s fastball was sitting and coming up empty.

Now, I’m no fucking Geeves here, but all my searching has turned up is this single tweet about a Jerry Howarth comment from friend (and occasional foe) @NorthYorkJays:

So… there was a stadium gun?

But… wait, was Howarth even at Cecil’s start yesterday? Because I was only able to listen to the shitty Twins feed on MLB.com. And wasn’t the club’s entire media horde over at the maple circle jerk at Al Lang field?

I don’t know. But I find it more than a little bit curious that the main question any right-thinking fan would have wanted answered yesterday– where Cecil’s velocity is at– seems to have gone unanswered, except for a comment from Jerry, buried in the endless stream of live radio.

Unanswered, that is, as far as me and any Google or Twitter search for “Brett Cecil” and “fastball,” or “velocity,” or the numbers 86 through 90, is concerned.

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist– and Occam’s razor would suggest I’m probably just doing a shit job of searching– but… I don’t know. It’s weird. Isn’t it? And very obvious why the club would prefer that fans weren’t hanging on every pitch of every Cecil start to see what the radar gun says.

Which isn’t to say that fans should want to scrutinize a pitcher’s velocity too heavily at this point in camp, it’s just odd that when they’d legitimately want to, they seemingly can’t. Did the media folk simply decide that the Canada wank was a better, more sellable story? Perhaps it’s as simple as that.

Like a Syd Barrett acid trip gone into “Interstellar Overdrive” (OK, I’ll stop), this Gavin Floyd business refuses to subside, with my ‘Merkin friend, Scott Merkin of WhiteSox.com contacting ChiSox GM Kenny Williams for a tasty non-denial denial.

“I am not looking to move him,” Williams said in response to an email. Well then, I guess that’s settled, huh?

Meanwhile, Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com debunks the innuendo at his North of the Border blog with some exasperation. “Why this is actually news, I’m not sure,” he writes, “but since every time one of these reports surface south of the border it garners a lot of attention it becomes necessary for the Toronto media to respond in some way.”

Chisholm, quite fucking rightly, explains that “the fact that these reports are coming out now should suggest nothing other than that Anthopoulos is once again doing his due diligence.”

He feels that the rotation is essentially set– with both management’s and John Farrell’s love of Henderson Alvarez cementing his spot, and Dustin McGowan’s lack of options cementing his, leaving Brett Cecil as the biggest question mark, with Kyle Drabek somewhere behind him. Beyond that the Jays depth is mostly in terms of prospects, who might not be ready to help if injury or poor performance derails one of the main six. “Anthopoulos will continue to monitor the market for another starter because it’s just the smart thing to do,” Chisholm writes, “but pulling the trigger on a deal when there’s still three weeks to go until Spring Training is another matter entirely.”

Superficially the Floyd stuff maybe fits in with what we’ve been hearing out of Dunedin, but the rumours of Brett Cecil’s demise have surely been exaggerated. Yes, the velocity in his first spring start wasn’t where anybody wanted it to be, but it’s too soon to say it’s definitely going to say that way, and the Jays will probably give him an excess of rope this spring, because, as Gregor points out, they were quite pleased with the dedication he showed over the winter, after coming to camp having lost 35 pounds.

Cecil starts this afternoon in a split squad game against the Twins, according to the AP. Should be interesting…

Cecil Tops Out at 88

Dun dun dun…

I don’t really see how this is too much to worry about this early in the spring, but here’s what Gregor Chisholm tweeted about Brett Cecil’s velocity in today’s exhibition between the Jays and whoeverthefuck they played:

That’s, of course, below his too-slow average of 89.1 last year (according to the Pitch F/X data at FanGraphs), so it’s not exactly cause for celebration, but… I don’t know… talk to me in a couple weeks and if he’s still in this range, then I’ll get concerned.

Chisholm says that he’ll be following-up with Cecil post-game to see if he was holding back, and adds that Morrow said yesterday there was “only one pitch he really let loose.” That said, Morrow was sitting at 94-95. (Note: Nails!)

It’s a long way to the 90.8 Cecil averaged in his first year. Not the best sign.