Being the last kid selected is always rough on the psyche. Being the last kid turned away is even rougher. When that falls on someone trying to make a Major League Baseball team, like the Toronto Blue Jays, it can be downright heartbreaking.
In 2012, Brett Cecil was the last one to get his walking papers in Spring Training. After being a part of the starting rotation for three consecutive season, Cecil’s declining velocity and struggles with control lead to an early season demotion and a chance to rebuild himself in the minors. But despite some solid numbers on his assignments in New Hampshire and Las Vegas, Cecil continued to be punished by Major League hitters.
2013 has been a completely different story.
Like 2012, Brett Cecil failed to set himself apart in camp, but with Toronto carrying an 8-man pen – due in part to other players struggling and the lack of options on Cecil and Jeffress – the Blue Jays saw fit to bring him North to Toronto to start the season with the big club. Essentially, the Blue Jays believed enough in Cecil’s ability that they didn’t want to lose him to a waiver claim, so they gave him the chance to prove himself.
So far in 2013, that is exactly what Cecil has done for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Like the rest of the Blue Jays bullpen, Cecil has stepped up in the wake of nearly nightly struggles by the rotation, and is making the most of his new life as a reliever.
Through 11.1 innings, Cecil has been nearly untouchable, registering a 1-0 record, a 1.59 ERA, and a .158 batting average against. His 11.1 K/9 ratio would be nearly four runs better than his previous career high and outside of Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos, Cecil has the lowest WHIP of any Jays pitcher.
So what has made Brett Cecil more effective in 2013? The answer is simply: velocity.
With the ability to leave it all out on the mound over a short stint, Cecil’s added velocity has been a huge boon to his ability to get batters out. According to FanGraphs, Cecil’s average fastball velocity in 2013 is sitting at 91.8 MPH, which would be 2.7 ticks faster than he was throwing a season ago. In fact his entire repertoire is sitting comfortably higher than last season, with his cutter sitting at 89.4 (+2.1), his curve ball at 81.6 (+2.8), and his change-up at 85.5 (+3.4).
Cecil has also seemingly taken a book out of the pages of other prominent relievers. The cutter has perhaps been one of the most devastating pitches in recent years, as seen from Mariano Rivera, and now Brett Cecil is throwing one with regularity, about 11.7% of the time according to FanGraphs. That pitch is allowing the lefty to stay somewhat effective against right-handed hitters.
Now, as with any analysis taken during the month of April, the sample size is still relatively small and there is plenty of time for Cecil to deviate back toward his previous self. Still, with the team struggling and fans looking for something to cling to, Cecil and the rest of the bullpen are all we have left.
Can we just enjoy that for the time being?