Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brett Cecil's New Normal

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about Brett Cecil lately (though perhaps not as much as some have in the past). More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what exactly could have happened to him through Spring Training and most of the early part of the season last year.

In March of last year, he told the National Post’s John Lott that his fastball was averaging about 87 miles per hour, although, according to him, “Everybody knows (he) can throw in the low 90s.”

The diminished velocity, and all-around lack of effectiveness, was well-documented. It got him sent to Vegas, and led to him putting up numbers that were a clear step backward from his previous season. There was a time when smarter people than me would have taken Cecil over Ricky Romero (Keith Law says as much in this chat from only two years ago) . The whole episode makes me wonder how many would do it today.

Lots of theories have been put forward about Cecil’s 2010 issues, from a possible undiagnosed injury, to a mysterious dead-arm problem, to a mechanical issue in his delivery that needed to be fixed.

But one other theory has stuck with me. I don’t even remember where I saw or read it, and it might have only been just one time in a comment section somewhere, but I found myself nodding along with the idea – having been through it myself and seeing the effects in had on my own day-to-day activities.

The theory: Brett Cecil had lost either his conditioning, or his focus, or both, as a result of spending more time last off-season occupied with his new baby.

Absurd, right? I mean, it’s not like Cecil was the first player in history to be a parent. Plenty of ballplayers have plenty of kids (some of them will even admit to being their fathers… hey-o!). I don’t know if any of them ever saw an impact, positive or negative, on their baseball performance.

But anyone that has ever gone through the experience of having a baby in their life for the first time knows that it has an effect. If you’re one of those parents who claims that it never fazed them in the least and your work output never once changed except for the better, then I’m prepared to call you a big fat liar.

When the Org Kids came along, I was pretty much a disaster for a good nine or ten months after each of their births. When you’re a new parent, you don’t sleep at night. You don’t eat properly. You don’t have time to work out.

And you can’t wait to get back home from whatever’s taken you away from those kids to go through more of it.

Cecil at one time had a Twitter account, and his followers got to see just how excited he was to be a new father. There is little doubt that the guy is a committed, doting dad and husband. I followed him, and even though he’s younger than me, I could seriously relate to things he was expressing about his life and growing family.

But even the most enthusiastic and energetic new parents need to re-invent their entire routines around the kids, and inevitably, things get dropped out of the old routines. I don’t know everything there is to know about a left-handed pitcher’s offseason training regimen, but I could certainly envision myself eliminating the 6AM run from the daily calendar if I’d been up four times during the night to calm a crying baby. But eventually, you figure it out. Your life never gets back to the way it was, but a “new normal” sets in and the upheaval subsides – mostly.

I don’t know; maybe it’s a bullshit theory and Cecil never missed a beat in terms of conditioning or focus. Maybe the things that more-or-less suddenly troubled him last spring were as mysterious as they seemed. Baseball is a weird game that way.

Besides, it’s not like there’s any way to find out if the new-parent theory is true. I certainly would never expect a major league baseball player to tell a beat reporter that the reason he couldn’t pick up the spin on a breaking ball out of the pitcher’s hand that day was because he was awake all night washing puke out of his baby’s crib blankets.

All I’m saying is I’m prepared to cut Cecil a break if being a new dad took a toll on him that he wasn’t quite ready to deal with or admit. If he’s like the rest of us, once his new normal is established, chances are he’ll be better than ever.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating theory. As a stay at home dad to a 15 month old, I'm totally buying it. My wife, who got to go back to work after 6 months is more doubtful. Because she's now the one who gets to sleep through the night. Incidently, my lifting arm (my left, even though I'm a righty) is now much stronger. Perhaps Brett was using his right arm to hoist the kidlet.

Pat said...

I can imagine it would be hard to be apart from his wife and child through Spring training and into the start of the season.

NorthYorkJays said...

Really enjoyed this piece. I suspect many of us have been following Cecil since the day he was drafted, and 2011 was no doubt difficult to watch. I hope Cecil cleans his act up quickly in 2012 because with Romero/Morrow locked in, McGowan working his way back, and a host of young arms starting with Alvarez & Drabek near major-league ready Brett is running out of time to lock down his presence in the Jays rotation.

I do wonder if Cecil's ultimate spot is in the bullpen as more of a lefty specialist in the Downs mold. Neither guy throws particularly hard and each leans heavily on his one breaking ball for success. Brett has had success over his career vs. lefties and was primarily a reliever/closer in college before the Jays tried stretching him out, so the mentality is probably still in him.

When I see Cecil wearing those goggles on his bloating frame I get scared by one thought : Gustavo Chacin.

Ty said...

Whether it was baby-related or not, I'd say conditioning probably played a major role in Cecil's struggles this year. I remember seeing a picture somebody took in the Jays clubhouse at one point and he was in the background sans shirt, looking rather pudge-tastic. It'll be interesting to see what happens with him though, as it feels like he's fallen as far down the depth chart as anyone I can think of over the last year. Here's hoping he's able to change people's minds back in the other direction just as quickly.

Roberto said...

Cecil has conditioning problems? I'm totally on board with that - I was saying as much, in my end of season review. Cecil's a lot more Litsch than Halladay, body wise.

And didn't Adam Lind become a dad last offseason? Aaaand didn't Adam Lind suffer from back problems all through 2011?

Makes me want to go running again, before my kid arrives.

Ty said...

Griffin has written a few times that he believes Lind's adjustment to being a dad probably played a role in his 2011 struggles. I hate to use the term "intangibles" but that really is something that may have had a major effect on both those guys, and there's really no way to quantify it at all. As a fan I just hope they can both bounce back in 2012.

Steve02 said...

New market efficiency! Trade the new dad for kidless 4ssh0les who never get laid

Peter DeMarco said...

"But anyone that has ever gone through the experience of having a baby in their life for the first time knows that it has an effect. If you’re one of those parents who claims that it never fazed them in the least and your work output never once changed except for the better, then I’m prepared to call you a big fat liar."

Or, you are a deadbeat date who his soon for divorce.

Peter DeMarco said...

that should have said "deadbeat dad"

Brian Tallet's Cock Cheese said...

Someone else said it best: when did Cecil become a fat Brad Mills?

Anonymous said...

***I also remember reading this theory put forth a little while ago, & like you, Tao of Stieb, it stuck with me.

It made perfect sense --- New IDENTIY and new priorities. Just by looking at Cecil's twitter comment/profile... Baseball player comes 3rd, right after Father & Husband.

I'm not one to disagree with that order. It resonates & makes sense with me. It's just that in a competitive sport, it doesn't add up to maximum perfermonace.

If Cecil equates that Excellent Pitching performaces is helping my family. Or I can dedicate myself to my team & still be a good father & husband. That would be benficial for everyone involved. (It raises another question within me: Are we, as a society, placing sports at too high of a priority over family & other important values, such as education, financial well-being, self-improvement, productive accomplishments, & being good citizens?)


On a total left-turn, let's peek into the realm of Astrology. I just learned from commenter Roberto's comment that Adam Lind just became a father last off-season, and light-bulbs starting bursting in my general vicinity.

For anyone interested in Astrology, both Cecil & Lind are born with their Sun signs in Cancer (approx. June 22-July22, depending on the year)... Cancer is the sign related with mothers, mothering, the home environment, the feminine nurturing energy, & understandably places a high level of value in their families & security. (Also, FOOD, food, & food). Yes, this holds true even with men, although obviously more pronounced with women (in regards to nurturing, with food, who can say?). However, Cancer men are still very likely to take a great interest in their families, children, mothers, and wives, more so than the average sign/person (Think of the people you know!) because this sign is ruled by: the Moon & embodies this energetic Archetype... Know Thyself!


What can be done? What are some possible solutions? I think these players need a good talking to from someone who understands who can reach them, something to re-focus their perspectives, to get them back on track.

Maybe some consideration & extra time/perks, to be closer with their families on road trips, or periodic off-weekends or something, as a trade-off for more commitment at other times, to the team.