Exit Interview 2017: Brett Cecil

For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong.  The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year.  Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter.  As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.

Player: Brett Cecil

Season stats: 2-4, 1 SV, 3.88 ERA, 73 games, 67.1 IP, 67 H, 16 BB, 66 K, 1.233 WHIP, 3.26 FIP, 0.5 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Goat 9

Overall grade: C

Positives: Limited right-handed batters to a .208 average….was stronger in the first half, as batters had a .688 OPS against him before the All-Star Break….had three months of ERAs under three, including a 2.08 mark in September….batters hit .223 when they took the first pitch….they had a .400 OPS when he got to two strikes….limited the first batter he faced to a .225 average….did better work with the bases empty (.581 OPS against)….in low leverage situations batters hit just .193….when he had two days rest, batters hit .236; with three, .195….the Cubs had a .200 average against him.

Negatives: Was charged with four runs in three different outings….allowed a .936 OPS against left-handed batters, which is not good for a guy whose man job is supposed to get out lefties….had a 4.50 ERA in the second half….had an ERA of almost seven in August, even as he struck out 19 batters in 13 innings….had a 29.70 ERA in games where he recorded the loss…batters hit .475 with a 1.200 OPS on the first pitch….he also allowed a .311 average when there was nobody out in an inning….with runners in scoring position, opponents had an .838 OPS….that OPS was 1.089 in high leverage situations….had a 4.34 ERA on zero days’ rest, 5.65 ERA after one day off.

Overview: We spent a good part of the year blaming Brett Cecil for a lot of things, but when you look at the overall picture, it might not have been as bad as we thought it was.  True, it’s not a great thing when the guy you spent a lot of money on in the offseason comes in and struggles when you use him with limited rest, but it’s also true that some of those numbers spiked in small outings.  For instance, after giving up four runs in his second appearance (the infamous “ball sticking to Yadier Molina‘s protector” game), he was charged with two earned runs over the next month over 11.1 innings.  Even August, which has some ugly numbers, was mainly due to giving up six runs over two nights.  There were other issues, but he did have seven scoreless outings that month.

I’m not saying it was a good season, by any means.  Again, when your left-handed specialist can’t get out left-handers, that’s a problem.  41% of his inherited runners scored, which is not good.  There were flaws and drawbacks and if you say he wasn’t worth the big contract, that’s probably a fair assessment.  Lots of folks weren’t enamored with the contract at the time, which makes the idea that the Cards are again talking about jumping into spending big money for a reliever strange on the face on the face of it.  It felt like it was feast or famine with Cecil last year and the hope going forward would be to expand the feast times and minimize those famine ones.

Outlook: Cecil still was above average via ERA+ this season and his walk rate was in line with past seasons.  If he can get his K/9 back to the double digit marks he’s had in his career rather than the 8.8 we saw this year, the results are likely to be much better.  Given the fact that we didn’t hear anything about surgeries or rehabs for him right after the season, you have to figure he probably is healthy.  Perhaps with another year away from his injury and with a year in the National League under his belt, we’ll see more of what Toronto saw in Cecil in 2018.  It would feel short-sighted to cut ties with him at the moment without seeing if he can’t get back to a similar level that the Cards though they were paying for.

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