Blue Jays stock watch: Brett Cecil back on track
After a dominant and strikeout-filled 2014 campaign, the Blue Jays seemed ready to roll with Brett Cecil as their primary closer entering April. Like many Blue Jays relievers early in 2015, however, Cecil struggled out of the gates. After two losses in the span of a week in mid-April Cecil lost his edge, and his job.
Cecil began to thrive immediately in a non-closing role, often because the closer was unneeded given Toronto’s offense. His ERA dipped as low as 2.65 on June 6th, but the lefty soon surrendered an ugly nine earned runs over five short appearances. This left his ERA sitting at 5.96 after his June 26th blowup against the Baltimore Orioles, but Cecil hasn’t allowed an earned run since.
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That’s right: 15 straight outings and 14.0 innings pitched without a man crossing home. Cecil has allowed nine hits over that span and three walks, but struck out 15. Hitters have recorded a weak triple-slash line of just .188 / .235 / .271. So why have we seen him just twice in August?
Quite frankly, he hasn’t been needed. Keep in mind that fellow lefty Aaron Loup hasn’t touched the mound once in August, and the bullpen upgrades around him have eaten into the higher-leverage opportunities. LaTroy Hawkins has quickly become the picture of reliability out of the Blue Jays ‘pen, while Mark Lowe also represents a late-inning option. Combine that with Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna handling the eighth and ninth innings brilliantly, and Cecil is on the outside looking in. That’s just fine.
Left-handed batters have hit Cecil much harder in 2015, and if it weren’t for that, Loup wouldn’t be collecting dust on the Jays’ roster as a “lefty specialist”. Cecil’s peripheral stats look encouraging, however, with his 10.1 K/9 staying afloat and his 2.9 BB/9 sitting below his career average and recent season totals.
There will come a time, and soon, when Cecil is necessary for the Blue Jays to win a ball game, and I trust him to be ready. His greatest value is his ability to enter the game and record a strikeout, doing so without forcing manager John Gibbons to burn a back-end arm. If a starting pitcher is struggling to get out of the fifth with a man on third and one out, the Jays can roll out Cecil and escape the inning alive with Osuna, Sanchez and Hawkins still in the holster.
Deadline deals that raised the talent ceiling on this 25-man roster were critical, but so are performances like Cecil’s which raise the talent floor. The days of a top-heavy Blue Jays are over, and having Brett Cecil as a fifth or sixth option out of the bullpen is an extremely valuable weapon.
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