What more can you ask for from a 24 year old starter? He stepped up against 3 division rivals – including what most analysts will tell you are the 2 best teams in baseball – and simply shut them down to earn himself and the Jays 3 straight wins. Here are the lines of his last 5 starts:
- @ Sea: 6.1 IP/7 HA/ 2 ER/1 BB/ 4 SO
- @ LAA: 7.1 IP/ 2 HA/0 ER/ 2 BB/ 3 SO
- vs BAL: 8 IP/ 4 HA/ 2 ER/ 0BB/ 7 SO
- vs NYY: 8 IP/ 5 HA/ 1 ER/ 1 BB/ 5 SO
- @ TB: 6.2 IP/ 3 HA/ 1ER/ 3 BB/ 2 SO
For a total over his last 5 starts of : 5-0, 36.1 IP/ 21 HA/ 6 ER/ 7 BB/ 21 SO
IF that doesn’t make him one of the best pitchers in the last 3 to 4 weeks in all of MLB (aside from the craziness that is Ublado Jimenez, Roy Halladay and Armando), I don’t know what’s going on. When you make offensively oriented teams like the Rays and Yankees look foolish at the plate, your stuff is awesome. And when you keep those two powerhouses to 2 ER over 14.2 innings of work, you have something special working for you. Does it get noticed enough in MLB? I say no, it does not.
You ask or talk about the Jays pitching around baseball and most fans or articles are about Shaun Marcum‘s miraculous comeback and surprising dominance, or about Ricky Romero‘s rise that is starting to look like a path to being an ace of the staff. Very few will point out that Brett Cecil is one of the top 20 pitchers in the AL and needs to be noticed as such. The Jays needed him to win the game. He knew it, they knew it. To be swept by the Rays would have had the possibility of putting the Jays in selling mode sooner than the players want, and Cecil took to the mound with that knowledge on his mind. He knew the standings, knew about the fact that he was on the road in a hostile and unfamiliar environment (although quiet in Tropicana), and he showed up big time. He gave the Jays exactly what they needed: an effective start that shut down a team that the Jays need to beat in order to make the playoffs.
Whether or not that happens this year is almost irrelevant. What does matter is that the Jays now know what they have in the majors. They have ace like caliber stuff – or potential – in 3 pitchers, and they can now feel more comfortable leaning on these guys to perform as leaders when they bring up Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart, and eventually Henderson Alvarez. This is very important, because it means that they don’t have to go out on the market and get a pitcher or two that can help alleviate some of the pressure these guys will feel. Not only is this a great asset for the Jays in terms of talent on board to help out those pitchers, but the fact that they are all very young and can therefore relate more easily to new up and coming pitchers is an added bonus.
Can you imagine how hard it must be to apprach someone like Roy Halladay and ask questions if you’re Kyle Drabek? You’re more in awe than you are listening to what he’s telling you. But if you ask the same question to Brett Cecil, someone 2 years older than you who just went through what you’re going through, both sides of the conversation must be more at ease and easier to relate to. I’m not saying it’s the better option, but to me it seems more likely that the young pitchers the Jays call up will ask for and get help from the young staff they have on board than if the staff was filled with veterans in their mid thirties.
Some extra curricular stuff:
- Dewayne Wise made his Jays debut as a pinch-runner – how fitting. He replaced John McDonald who was placed on the bereavement list. The presence of Wise on the bench means the Jays are now carrying 3 guys who can play the outfield in Wise, Mike McCoy, and Jeremy Reed. It also means that Mike McCoy is now the only infielder on the bench which should give him more playing time, something he has earned with his excellent defensive play.
- I watched a pre-game interview with John Buck where he was asked about how the process has moved along for him and Jose Molina in helping mold this young staff. He pointed to the time in between starts as the biggest difference from when he joined the Jays until now. It’s a crucial time that the catchers and pitchers use in order to get on the same page about the strategy they may use and what they are both comfortable calling during the game (and which pitches are working or not working). Whatever they’re doing between starts is definitely working and I have to wonder whether the Jays staff would be doing so well with Buck and Molina? I would say it has a major effect on the staff when they get along with the catcher they have behind the plate, but I’m not sure how often pitchers are actually paired with guys they don’t like…..so this one is debatable, but I’d like to think the Jays success this season is partially due to the impact Buck and Molina have had on this staff. They’ve helped them relax, get the right game plan, execute it without distraction, and added bonus offense from Buck and bonus defense from Molina who has mowed down base-runners.
The Jays are going to face some stiff pitching against NL teams, which begins against none other than the Colorado Rockies and Ubaldo Jimenez. I certainly hope the Jays got some sleep on the flight, because they’re going to need clear eyes to get any wood on his pitches!