Stats & Info: Brett Cecil

Pitching riches overwhelm in All-Star Game

July, 17, 2013
Robert Deutsch/USA Today SportsIn Mariano Rivera's final All-Star Game, pitching ruled the day.

Pitching, pitching and more pitching was the dominant statistical storyline in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.

This year’s contest was, like last year’s, a shutout, marking the first time in All-Star Game history that consecutive games were shutouts.

The three runs scored were the fewest combined by the two teams in an All-Star Game since 1990, when the AL won 2-0. The teams combined to hit .197 with the NL managing only three hits, tied for the second-fewest in an All-Star Game.

With the win, the AL will hold home-field advantage in this year’s World Series.

Let’s run through some of the highlights.

Mariano Rivera the MVP
Mariano Rivera won MVP honors, which wasn’t so much for this game (in which he pitched a scoreless eighth inning), but was more of a lifetime achievement award to commemorate his great career.

Rivera pitched nine innings in his All-Star career and allowed one unearned run. The only pitcher to pitch more All-Star innings without allowing an earned run was Mel Harder, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians in the 1930s and 1940s.

Rivera got a “hold” in this game and not a save. His four All-Star Game saves are the most all-time.

Rivera is the first pitcher who was primarily used by his major league team as a relief pitcher to earn All-Star Game MVP honors. He’s the second to pitch in relief in the game and earn MVP, joining Jon Matlack, a starter on the 1975 New York Mets who shared MVP honors in that year’s All-Star Game.

Rivera is the first pitcher to win All-Star Game MVP since Pedro Martinez in 1999 and the second Yankees player to win it, joining Derek Jeter in 2000.

Elias notes that he’ll join Cal Ripken Jr. as the only players to win All-Star Game MVP in their final seasons.

The young guys were very impressive
NL starter Matt Harvey, the first New York Mets pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Dwight Gooden in 1988, looked sharp after letting the first two hitters reach base. He was the first Mets pitcher to throw two scoreless innings in an All-Star Game since Gooden in 1984.

Harvey continued a run of dominance by Mets pitchers making their All-Star debuts. The 11 pitchers have combined for 12 2/3 scoreless innings, with 20 strikeouts.

White Sox pitcher Chris Sale earned the win. He was the first AL pitcher to throw two perfect innings in an All-Star Game since Roger Clemens in 2001. He’s the first White Sox pitcher to win an All-Star Game since Mark Buehrle in 2005.

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez struck out a pair of hitters in the sixth inning to become the third pitcher age 20 or younger with multiple strikeouts in an All-Star Game, joining Gooden (1984) and Hall of Famer Bob Feller.

The combined line for those three -- five innings pitched, one hit allowed, seven strikeouts. The trio has 93 career starts between them.

The AL benefited from a couple of nifty examples of teamwork en route to the win.

Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera each had at least one hit in the game. It’s the first time that the Detroit Tigers have had three different players get a hit in an All-Star Game.

On the pitching side, Toronto Blue Jays relievers Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar combined for the last two outs of the seventh inning by striking out left-handed hitting Domonic Brown and right-handed hitting Buster Posey.
Cecil has held lefties to a .154 on-base percentage this season, the lowest for anyone in the majors this season.

Delabar has struck out 150 batters in 108 innings over the last two seasons. His rate of 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings is eighth-best in the majors in that span.

Did You Know?
The NL finished with only four baserunners, the fewest in a game for either team since 1995 and the fewest for the NL in an All-Star Game since 1968.

The AL grounded into an All-Star Game-record four double plays.

Joe Nathan recorded the save. The only other Rangers pitcher to record a save in an All-Star Game was John Wetteland in 1999. You might remember Wetteland as the pitcher who preceded Rivera as Yankees closer.

Key to win streak: Inside Blue Jays bullpen

June, 21, 2013
Yes, the Toronto Blue Jays are hitting and winning, but the work of their bullpen throughout this month, and particularly during this nine-game winning streak (which got them to .500 for the first time all season), should not be overlooked.

The Blue Jays' bullpen has an 0.61 ERA in June after three more scoreless innings in relief of R.A. Dickey in Friday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles.

The numbers may be slightly distorted by six unearned runs this month, but they’ve been impressive nonetheless.

During the winning streak, Blue Jays relievers are 3-0 with four saves and have pitched 22 innings, allowing two unearned runs and seven hits. They haven't allowed an earned run in their last 27 innings.

Let’s take a look at the two relievers who have been big keys to their run of success.

The closer: Casey Janssen
Casey Janssen picked up the role of closer last season and has taken the ball and run with it through 2013. He has 16 saves in 17 opportunities, with saves and a win on Friday in his last five appearances since the season’s only blown save.
Casey Janssen
Janssen earned his first save of last season on May 9. Since that date, his WHIP of 0.80 ranks third among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, trailing only Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara.

Kimbrel and Grant Balfour are the only two pitchers with a better opponents’ OPS in that stretch than Janssen’s .495.

Janssen does this without posting hugely above-average numbers when it comes to getting swings-and-misses.

But his rate of taken pitches that are called strikes, a big factor in his success, is 40 percent since last May 9, considerably above the big-league average of about 33 percent.

Unsung star: Brett Cecil
Perhaps the most amazing work has been done by Brett Cecil, who has held opponents hitless over his last 43 batters faced (Elias notes this is a team record). Cecil got all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth inning on Friday, including Chris Davis, who hit his major-league leading 27th homer earlier in the game.

Cecil has become much more than a lefty specialist (left-handed hitters are 7-for-71 against him this season). He’s now faced 142 hitters this season in total and held them to a .132/.193/.217 slashline (all best in the majors among pitchers who have faced that many batters.
Brett Cecil
Cecil is winning with a fastball that is not overpowering (he throws it 92 mph on average). He locates it at the top of (and above) the strike zone more often than any other pitcher (60 percent of his pitches are to the upper-third of the zone and above).

He also nets misses on about half of the swings against his breaking pitches, including a curveball that he’s throwing nearly three times as often as he did the past two seasons.

The other noticeable improvement for Cecil —- a jump in his ground-ball rate of nearly 10 percentage points from the previous two seasons, up from 40 percent (in 2011 and 2012) to 49 percent, and with that a significant reduction in hard-hit contact against him.

Looking ahead: Closing in on a record
The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that this is the Blue Jays' longest streak without allowing an earned run since a 1993 run of 27 1/3 innings.

That bullpen helped lead the team to the World Series.

The team record is 28 innings, set in 1989.
If 2011 numbers are any indication, the Boston Red Sox have the right pitcher on the mound to even the series with the New York Yankees on Wednesday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Josh Beckett
In his four starts against the Yankees this season, Josh Beckett is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA. In the past 35 years, only three pitchers have posted an ERA of 1.00 or lower against the Yankees with at least 25 innings: Felix Hernandez (0.35 in 2010), Chuck Finley (0.57 in 1996) and Mike Caldwell (0.99 in 1978).

The key to Beckett’s success? The heart of the Yankees' order -- the 3-4-5-6 hitters -- are a combined 2-for-32 (.063) with 15 strikeouts. The only two hits belong to Robinson Cano (2-for-9).

That level of dominance was hard to envision after Beckett’s Bronx struggles in 2010, when he posted a 10.04 ERA against the Yankees. That was the fifth-highest ERA against the Yankees in the past 50 seasons (minimum four starts).

Last season, left-handed batters on the Yankees hit .354 with eight home runs against Beckett. This season, he has been able to neutralize them: a .156 batting average and one home run.

Beckett will be going for his fourth win against New York this season, a rare feat among Red Sox pitchers. Al Nipper went 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA against the Yankees in 1987, a season in which he won only seven other games. No Red Sox pitcher has won four against New York since, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

According to Elias, only three pitchers since 1995 have four wins against the Yankees in a season: Brett Cecil (4–0 in 2010), Roy Halladay (5–1 in 2008) and Chuck Finley (4–0 in 1996).

On the last day of August, Beckett looks for a positive end to a relatively shaky month. In five starts, he’s allowed seven home runs. Compare that to just nine in his first 20 starts. For his career, August is the only month in which Beckett has an ERA (4.53) over 4.00 or a record below .500 (18-20).

Beckett also looks to continue an impressive streak at home. In each of his first 11 starts at Fenway, he’s held the opponent to three runs or fewer. In the live ball era (since 1920), the Red Sox have had only two longer such streaks to start a season: Roger Clemens (15 in 1990) and Pedro Martinez (13 in 2000).
The St. Louis Cardinals' Chris Carpenter is now 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA against the Cincinnati Reds this season. Carpenter has also won each of his last 10 starts against the Reds, dating back to Aug. 15, 2006. From the Elias Sports Bureau: Over the past 65 years, only two other pitchers have won 10 consecutive starts against the Reds: Warren Spahn (1952-1964) and Ramon Martinez (1993-1998).

Also, Carpenter struck out 11 and did not walk a batter -- the third time with St. Louis he's struck out at least 11 and had no walks. Nine of his 11 strikeouts came on either his curveball or slider, and in two-strike count situations, the Reds were 0-for-17.

• The Florida Marlins got their 10th walk-off win of the season, courtesy of Scott Cousins' first big-league hit. He’s the first player since the Reds' Paul Janis in 2008 whose first major-league hit was a walk-off.

• Hanley Ramirez now has four consecutive 20-HR seasons, that’s tied for the second-longest streak in Marlins team history behind Dan Uggla, who has hit 20 HR in each of the last five years.

• Prince Fielder has now hit 30 home runs in each of the last four seasons. That ties Jeromy Burnitz and Gorman Thomas for the most 30-HR seasons in Milwaukee Brewers history.

• Evan Longoria became the third player, whose primary position was 3rd base, to hit at least 20 home runs in each of his first three seasons. The other two are Eddie Mathews and Bob Horner. Longoria also has at least 20 HR and at least 30 doubles in each of his first three seasons, becoming the fifth player in MLB history to reach those bench marks.

• Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup Sunday, but the New York Yankees lost and saw their season-high win streak end at eight games. The Yankees are now 17 games over .500 this season when Rodriguez plays (65-48) and 18 games above .500 when he does not (21-3).

• The Toronto Blue Jays' Brett Cecil joins the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez as the only pitchers who are 3-0 this season against the Yankees.

The Closer: AL pitchers steal the show

July, 2, 2010
Why Yankees starter CC Sabathia beat the Mariners:

- Despite allowing a season-high 9 offspeed pitches to be put in play, hitters went just 2-11 (2 K) and are now 6-64 against them over his last 6 starts (8-15 in previous 2 starts).
- Narrowing the above note to just change ups, hitters were 0-6 and are now 1-25 over his last 6 starts (4-5 in previous 2 starts).
- Finished off 11 of 12 hitters that reached 2 strikes (92 percent; MLB avg is 72) despite striking out just 4 batters (33 percent; Sabathia's avg was 45 entering today)

Why Angels starter Jered Weaver beat the Rangers:

- Threw 24 curveballs (21.2 pct of his pitches), 2nd-most in a start this season.
- This kept hitters off his heater: 1-for-15 (.067) vs fastball (.218 before Thursday).
- Also helped other pitches: 41.7 chase pct vs sliders/change ups (2nd best this season), hitters just 1-for-6 vs those 2 pitches.

Why A's starter Trevor Cahill beat the Orioles:

- Hitters were 0-8 against offspeed pitches; 0-15 over last 2 starts.
- Hitters were 4-16 against fastballs (.211 BA for the season is 2nd among AL starters).
- Kept over half of his pitches down in the zone, inducing hitters to go 1-12 (3-32 over last 3 starts).
- Hitters were 0-10 when they reached 2 strikes, 0-23 over last 2 starts.

Despite the Mets losing for the 9th time in his last 12 starts, Johan Santana bounced back from a tough stretch with his 1st quality start since June 2. The key for Santana was his ability to finish the job when the count got to 2 strikes. Recently, opposing hitters had been able to fight him off and eventually get hits:


Opposing Orioles starter Brad Bergesen has struggled this season with his fastball, his primary pitch, allowing a .356 batting average against. The Red Sox are especially strong against the fastball, hitting .304 and slugging .531.

Against the Diamondbacks Edwin Jackson, teams are batting .200 (23-115) with 49 strikeouts when seeing his slider. The Dodgers are hitting .214 against sliders this season, with just 10 of their 58 home runs and 160 of their 550 strikeouts against the pitch.

The Yankees lost to Brett Cecil and the Blue Jays on June 4th when they chased 50.7 pct of Cecil's pitches out of the strike zone (most in a Cecil start this season). That game was a rarity - the Yanks' highest chase pct in a game this season - as they currently rank 28th in the majors in chase pct (20.4).

In his June 4th loss to Toronto, A.J. Burnett allowed a season-high 3 HR (since matched). Burnett threw 41 curveballs (most in a start this season), but all 3 Blue Jay HR came against fastballs.

The Closer: Magnificent Seven

June, 5, 2010
It was a star-studded evening on the mound Friday.

Seven of the night's starting pitchers had no-hitters and/or perfect games under their belts (Roy Halladay, Dallas Braden, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez, A.J. Burnett, Carlos Zambrano). The septet combined to go 3-3 with a no-decision.

Here's a look at how a few of them - and some others - won:

Why Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright beat the Brewers:
- As usual, his curveball. The Brew Crew was only 1-13 (.077) against the pitch Friday - that lowers the opposition's average to .138 (15/109) vs Wainwright's deuce this season.
- Put hitters away. Wainwright got two strikes on 15 hitters - he retired all 15 (100 pct; MLB average: 72 pct).
- Attacked. Of the 30 batters he faced, Wainwright went to 3-ball counts on only two hitters (7 pct; MLB average: 19 pct).

Why Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz beat the Orioles:
- Hitters were 0-5 with a strikeout against Buchholz's slider. The right hander only threw 13 sliders, but recorded 11 strikes and 3 fly outs.
- The Orioles swung on the first pitch nine times, putting six in play for outs. Buchholz has not allowed a hit on the first pitch in his last three starts (0-10) and is holding opponents to a .062 batting average in the last five starts.
- Did not allow a hit with runners in scoring position for the second straight start and opponents are now hitting .209 in that situation
- The 3.26 pitches per plate appearance was the lowest in Buchholz's 11 starts, allowing him to get his first complete game shutout since his no-hitter on September 1, 2007 against the Orioles.

Why Astros starter Felipe Paulino beat the Cubs:
(He's not exactly used to the winner's circle. It's his first win this season and he had only won 1 of his previous 14 decisions, dating back to June 27, 2009)
- He battled. In 2-0, 2-1 and 3-ball counts, he retired 67 percent of hitters (MLB average: 54 pct). Heading into the game, he allowed a .327 average on "non-2-strike counts." Friday, hitters were 2-11 (.182) in such spots.
- He was efficient. Of his 8 innings, 4 were of the 1-2-3 variety (50 pct; MLB average: 31 pct).
- Effective with fastball. Heading into game, hitters were .306 against Paulino's fastball. Friday, the Cubs were 2-13 (.154).

Why Phillies starter Roy Halladay beat the Padres:
- Got ahead of hitters, throwing a first pitch strike to 78 percent of batters faced (25 of 32, which is a season high. "Doc" also threw a strike on the one of the first two pitches to 94 percent (30 of 32).
- Had good command of his fastball, throwing a strike on 74 percent of pitches with the heater. Halladay also showed good command with his slider and curve, registering a strike on 74 percent of those pitches as well.
- Although it's his most infrequently used pitch, Halladay threw more sliders today (11) than in any start this year, recording 2 strikeouts to give him 10 with the pitch this season.
- Threw 50 pitches in the lower region of the zone, recording 30 strikes and 6 strikeouts. Of Halladay's 18 K's in his last two starts, 12 have been in the lower third of the zone.
- As he did in his perfect game, six of Halladay strikeouts were on pitches out of the zone.

Why Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil beat the Yankees:
- Continued dominance with off-speed stuff. Friday, Cecil held Yankees hitters to a 1-14 (.071) mark against non-fastballs. For the season, Cecil has limited hitters to a .118 average (12-102) against non-fastballs.
- They couldn't lay off it, either. His chase pct on non-fastballs was 52 (MLB avg. - 31 pct).
- Lots of air. Of his 70 strikes, 18 were swings and misses (26 pct). The MLB average is only 14 percent.
- Over his last 4 starts, Cecil is 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA. He has 19 strikeouts and only 4 walks over that stretch.

BP: Five Opening Day roster mistakes

April, 5, 2010
The six-month slog of the regular season can make any Opening Day roster error a footnote. Even so, with the regular season swinging into action, there are some problems that need fixing sooner rather than later. Here are five of the biggest crimes being committed in Opening Day roster construction.

1) Making the term "designated hitter" an oxymoron on the South Side: Roster pressures have encouraged more than a few teams to stock the DH slot with "staff" and use the at-bats as a way to keep bench players fresh or give position players days off from fielding. But in a White Sox lineup that projects to finish 12th in the AL in true average and 12th in OBP, letting those at-bats go to Mark Kotsay (11 homers over the last three years) and Andruw Jones (.304 OBP in that time) just isn't going to fly. Recently-waived Jack Cust (25 homers, .356 OBP last year) may not be an Ozzieball ballplayer, but he'd make a nice fix to both problems in a lineup that could keep a quality rotation from winning a winnable division.

2) Demoting Brett Cecil: Already looking like a club that might slip from the irrelevancy of fourth place to the ignominy of fifth, the Blue Jays have rounded out their rotation with veteran swingman Brian Tallet and the well-traveled Dana Eveland. While both have their uses, neither presents any real upside; they'll just help the Jays successfully complete a losing season. Cecil was already the organization's best pitching prospect, and last season's 17 starts in the big leagues showed he's figuring things out (6.7 K/9). Beyond that, an assignment to that hitting haven in Las Vegas is a terrible thing to do to a young pitcher. Skip the oregano, Cecil doesn't need any more seasoning.

3) Arizona tangling its own web: Losing Brandon Webb for longer than expected puts the D-backs in a bit of a bind, but the club was expected to contend, and relying on Ian Kennedy (6.03 career ERA), Rodrigo Lopez (5.70 career ERA), and a Reno ace to be named later to fill the last three slots in the rotation makes it clear that Arizona needs to add somebody. Lopez is a guy you endure as a fifth, not count on as a fourth.

4) The Nationals muddling their middle infield: To the credit of the Nats' brain trust, it's true: Cristian Guzman may not be all that, and Ian Desmond really should be given his shot at starting in the middle infield. But after a winter in which the other 29 teams had a chance to add Adam Kennedy and decided not to, he has no trade value to a club that needs to be thinking of how to convert veterans into prospects, whereas Guzman's value as a starting shortstop won't be helped if he's riding pine. A Guzman-Desmond combo up the middle makes far more sense.

5) L.A.'s long "relief": The Dodgers' bullpen is a throwback to the days when relievers were just guys who failed in their bids to make it in the rotation. But both Russ Ortiz and Ramon Ortiz? And Jeff Weaver? Carrying Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios isn't a bad choice as a matter of retaining talent, but as a quartet, the team's middle-relief selections figure to deliver middling results. The matter of who's in this bullpen might be one of the more subtle symptoms of the Dodgers' divorce-enabled inactivity this winter.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

FanGraphs: There might be hope in Toronto

March, 16, 2010
The Toronto Blue Jays' front office knew the situation when they traded Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies this winter. Staring upward at three powerhouses in the AL East, and seeing the Baltimore Orioles rapidly improving, they had to reload their farm system with young players if they wanted to avoid a perpetual spot in the cellar. Halladay presented them with the best opportunity to acquire young talent and rebuild the team. And here's the thing: even with Doc gone, the Jays' pitching might not be so bad in 2010.

It would seem, at face value, that losing Halladay would be devastating to the Jays' staff, which allowed 4.76 runs per game, 11th in the AL in 2009. But even though Halladay threw 239 innings, the rest of the rotation was ravaged by injuries and there's reason to believe the Jays have the depth and upside in their rotation to improve on last year's performance.

Of the 12 pitchers who started games for Toronto, one was Brian Tallet, a career reliever who posted a 5.41 ERA in 25 starts. Getting him out of the rotation will surely give the club a boost. Another starter was Brett Cecil, a college closer who recently transitioned to the rotation and had a 5.30 ERA. Just 23 years old, Cecil was a first-round pick in 2006, and there's plenty of reason to be optimistic about a guy who averaged a strikeout per inning in the minors. Add the return of Shaun Marcum, who missed all of 2009 while recovering from elbow surgery, with an improvement from Ricky Romero (the club's 2005 first-rounder), and it's not hard to foresee the Jays' staff improving on its 2009 numbers.

CHONE projects the five presumed Blue Jays starters -- Romero, Cecil, Marcum, Brandon Morrow (the Mariners' 2006 first-rounder acquired in an off-season trade), and Mark Rzepczynski -- to post a 4.75 ERA, not much worse than the 4.66 ERA their starters posted last season. It would be highly unlikely for those five to make all 162 starts, but the Jays do have a number of backup plans, including Dustin McGowan, who finally appears healthy after a rotator cuff injury sidelined him in 2009, and Jesse Litsch, who should return mid-season following his own elbow surgery.

None of these guys will be as good as Halladay, at least not this season, but with three recent first-round picks in the fold, there's reason to believe Toronto's rotation will be better in 2010, even with Halladay in Philly.

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer for FanGraphs