Monday, February 7, 2011

Brett Cecil won't be ignored

So we're gallivanting around Niagara-on-the-Lake this weekend, hitting various and sundry wineries along the way, when one of our companions points out to us that "Brett Cecil had to be the quietest 15-game winner" he'd ever come across.

Being the cordial type that we are, we went along with the line of discussion. Actually, we didn't. We got all snooty and all "pfftt, wins are a stupid stat" and then tried to demonstrate our baseball acumen to a minivan full of mostly indifferent (though vaguely tolerant) wine drinkers.

But when the vino cloud pushed on and we had some time to think about it, there was something to what he was saying. If you'd asked us on the spot that day what Brett Cecil's record was last year, we would have figured 11-9, or 12-10, rather than the 15-7 that he actually posted. And while his won-loss is likely a bad way of gauging his worth, our teachable moment here was that we'd almost completely neglected our bespectacled hero when we considered the 2011 campaign.

Mostly, we've been focused on seeing Brandon Morrow emerge into something of otherworldly splendor, or seeing Ricky Romero become a wiser and wicked dealer at the top of the rotation. We also pictured Kyle Drabek's emergence, and the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, which would be won by someone so deserving (Zach Stewart) that they'd dazzle and amaze.

But Cecil? The dude who had us writing love poems to his thighs and they power they generated in his delivery? The dude who dazzled us with his ability to pitch blind (or at least without his glasses)? We'd pretty much put him in the corner. (And pause for you all to shout out the obvious Dirty Dancing punchline here.)

Looking at the more interesting numbers from last year, it stands to reason that Cecil would come into the year as the number three starter. His FIP of 4.03 ranked him behind Morrow (3.16) and RickRo (3.64), and puts him in a neighbourhood of pitchers such as Jonathan Sanchez, Tim Hudson and Carl Pavano. Which isn't bad, but wouldn't be your ace-type pitcher if you played in a real man's division of professional baseball.

Meanwhile, Cecil's K/9 of 6.10 was too low for us to start thinking about his impending world domination, though his low walk rate (2.81 per nine) outshone Romero's (3.51) and Morrow's (4.06), and keeping free runners of the basepaths is no small measure of future success. Cecil also did a decent job last year of keeping the ball on the ground (44.2% groundballs) while having the lowest percentage of line drives hit off him of those three returning starters (17.6%).

We're droning on here, and we can sense your eyes glazing over like Ban roll-on dispensers. But to sum up quickly, our point is that Brett Cecil will probably end up as the third-best pitcher in the rotation after all is said and done this year, but that's not a bad spot to end up. Cecil is still just 24 years old, and the youngest amongst the top three returning starters. He's also younger, than Rzep, Jesse Litsch, Brad Mills, Bobby Ray and Jo-Jo Reyes for that matter, and just a year and five months older than Drabek. So there's still plenty of upside to anticipate from him, and every possibility that he emerges into a top of the rotation arm within the next two seasons.


Ryan said...

I can't wait to see those child-bearing hips on the mound for the 3rd game of the season.

Anonymous said...

I'm not under-estimating him. Look at that face! Minus the glasses, it's Jimmy Key.

Navin V. said...

I think it was Drew that wrote last year that Cecil was the young pitcher most likely to regress. Blame him.

Ty said...

Remember last year when Cecil didn't make the rotation out of Spring Training but Brian Tallet and Dana Eveland did?

Greg said...

If he's Tim Hudson, i'll take him! these are Tim's most similar pitchers by age.

23. Anibal Sanchez (992)
24. Jon Lester (974)
25. Schoolboy Rowe (968)
26. Jon Lester (973)
27. Roy Oswalt (960)
28. Jack McDowell (956)
29. Jack McDowell (952)
30. Roy Halladay (961)
31. Roy Halladay (970)
32. Roy Halladay (964)
33. Don Newcombe (943)
34. Kevin Brown (933)

Greg said...

Of course, he's actually more like Tommy Hunter, Glen Perkins and Gio Gonzalez. Just keep getting out of the bases loaded jam, however you do it Brett!

Tao of Stieb said...

What I meant there was that 2010 Cecil was in the same neighbourhood as 2010 Hudson, 2010 Pavano, etc...

I think it is reasonable to believe that 2011 Cecil can have a better season than 2010 Hudson, but I wouldn't go comparing careers just yet.

Kevin A. said...

Take a look at Cecil's #s and Phil Hughes' numbers.

Outside of Hughes' higher K/9, they're pretty much identical.

Cecil: 4.22 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.32 xFIP, 2.5 WAR

Hughes: 4.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.33 WHIP, 2.4 WAR

Kevin A. said...

I'm a dope - that's a 4.33 xFIP for Hughes.

Tao of Stieb said...

Still, a pretty interesting comp. Plus, Hughes and Cecil are pretty much the same age. Within a month of each other.

Anonymous said...

Not saying they are the same beast, but check out Cecil's minor leauge #'s at the same age as David Price. Even their Major League numbers are fairly similar through their age. Now Price obviously has the better stuff, but im just sayin..

Anonymous said...

Great point comparing Brett to Jimmy Key. Crafty as hell, and an ice cube out there. A bit of the Pat Hentgen bulldog in him too. Can you tell, I like this kid a lot?

Anonymous said...

Cant pitch in a man's division? He had a winning record against the rays, red sox and yankees last year.

Anonymous said...

Ban roll on. Sweet reference.

Scrappy said...

Schoolboy Rowe is an awesome name.

If you had to rank the AL East's 3rd starter, what's the order?

Andrew said...

You just got me extra-psyched for Jose Bautista bobblehead day. said...

To my mind everybody have to glance at it.