Cecil’s Diminished Fastball

Just in case Jays fans took news of Brandon Morrow’s elbow tightness in stride, the National Post’s John Lott has another potentially frightenting report from yesterday afternoon about Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil’s diminished velocity.

The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander . . . is accustomed to throwing his fastball in the low 90s. He has not been able to hit 90 all spring. But it was more than one pitch. Cecil said he throws fastballs about 75% of the time to set up his three off-speed pitches. And his fastball is not as fast as it used to be. Cecil and manager John Farrell insist he is not injured. But with a week to go before the season starts, Cecil’s predicament might worry fretful fans, if not Jays management.

It’s kind of funny that Cecil claims he throws fastballs 75% of the time.  According to FanGraphs, he’s actually a lot more selective with his heater.  In his rookie season, the southpaw threw fastballs less than 56% of the time.  Last year, he threw them even less, under 52%, relying on his changeup 23.4%, slider 19.0% and curveball 5.9%.

Perhaps the scariest part of the news is that there’s no obvious cause for the loss of velocity.

According to Cecil:

Anybody in the league can jump on 87. One [Getting Blanked]ing pitch ruins the whole evening, doesn’t it? I was just telling Ricky, the most frustrating part is when you know something’s wrong and you can’t figure out why,” Cecil said. “He said, ‘Does your arm hurt or anything?’ I said, ‘No, I’d be happy if my arm hurt. At least I’d know why … the velocity’s down.’

I’m just trying to figure out why the velocity’s not there right now. Nothing hurts. Everything’s fine. Every other pitch is working great.

General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, always the voice of reason, dismissed any cause for concern by suggesting that Cecil was slow to find his velocity last year too.  It’s not altogether unheard of for pitchers, especially younger ones, to still be developing their arm strength to throw at the same speed that they were getting the season before.

The Yankees are currently experiencing the same thing with Phil Hughes, who was consistently hitting below 90 mph against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.  As Cecil himself says, let’s wait a little bit longer before we get too concerned.