Brett Cecil — It’s Not the Velocity, Stupid

Brett Cecil made his 4th start of the year this evening, at home against a loaded Yankee lineup.  Conventional Wisdom, now being echoed by his own manager (a former pitching coach) is that Cecil’s drop in velocity from 90 to 88 is largely responsible for the subpar results posted to date.

John Farrell, the Blue Jays first year manager, clearly knows more about major league pitching than I do.  Because we are in April, the necessary caveats about sample size apply.  Nevertheless, through four starts Cecil does appear to be showing a drop in velocity of approximately 2 MPH.  If Cecil is healthy, he wouldn’t be the first pitcher to throw harder in July than in early April, but even presuming the drop is real, a trip through Cecil’s game data reveal some far more interesting developments than the slight drop in velocity.

First and foremost, Cecil’s pitch selection appears to have changed significantly after a successful 2010 campaign:

FA%

FT%

SL%

CH%

2010

31.10%

20.00%

19.30%

23.80%

2011

13.30%

31.50%

18.50%

32.70%

Cecil is throwing fewer fastballs, and is shying away significantly from his four seam fastball (though perhaps this is attributable to the drop in velocity?).  More interestingly, Cecil is throwing 50% more changeups (and while his fastball is off 2 MPH, his changeup is coming in one mile an hour faster, shrinking the delta from close to 10 MPH to a mere 7.

Secondly (again, with proper nod to the gods of sample size), Cecil’s L/R splits are not to be believed:

Season Split

GB/FB

LD%

HR/FB

Strike %

2010

vs L

1.18

14.80%

6.70%

67.75%

2011

vs L

0.71

33.30%

0.00%

59.78%

2010

vs R

1.15

18.40%

9.20%

62.56%

2011

vs R

0.71

22.60%

28.60%

62.75%

Basically, Cecil is throwing fewer and fewer strikes to LHB, and those batters are raking against him, ripping line drives all over the field.  Further, an unsustainably high number of fly balls hit against him are flying out of the park – of course if this is a trend that continues Cecil will find himself pitching inSyracuse.  I find it hard to believe a 2 MPH drop in his fastball (which may be attributable primarily to mixing in more of a 2-seamer) is the reason Cecil is being roughed up by lefties.  My suspicion is that a few fly balls will stay in the yard over the next month, and Cecil will either change his approach to lefties, or make some adjustments that will make most of us forget about his early season velocity struggles.

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About Bill Porter

Bill is an aspiring sportswriter (attorney by day) born in Washington DC, raised in New York, and currently living in San Francisco with his wife Kirsten and two spazzy labs, Fletch and Bear. Follow me on Twitter at @wfporter1972
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