Ask a room full of Blue Jays fans who Toronto’s most dominant player has been since the All Star break, and you might not find a consensus. Josh Donaldson has solidified himself as a favorite for the American League MVP while Edwin Encarnacion has gone on a trademark tear at the plate. Don’t forget about David Price, either, who’s reminded Blue Jays fans what a true ace can be. One name you won’t hear is Brett Cecil.
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The headlining names atop this roster have produced a greater measured impact on wins and losses, but if we speak strictly in terms of dominating within one’s role, Brett Cecil cannot be touched. As I mentioned late in the most recent episode of the Jays Nest Podcast, Cecil hasn’t allowed a run since June. June.
After the Blue Jays tried to fit a square peg into a round hole with Cecil as their closer, the lefty proved to be ineffective as opposing hitters knew to expect his drastically-breaking curveball in all high-leverage counts. After losing the job, Cecil’s struggles peaked against the Baltimore Orioles on June 21st, where he allowed four earned runs on two hits and two walks, ballooning his ERA to 5.96. That was the last time a run crossed the plate against Cecil.
In his 24 appearances since, Cecil has pitched 21.0 inning of shutout ball while allowing just 13 hits and striking out 22 batters. To go along with his 0.773 WHIP, opposing hitters have produced a paltry slash line of .178 / .221 / .260 against him, establishing him as one of baseball’s hottest pitchers at the most opportune time in the season.
Cecil’s early struggles and the Jays’ deadline additions to the bullpen continue to wrongfully muffle any excitement over his recent stretch, but he’s returned to the pitcher that once deserved a shot at closing ball games. After very strong 2013 and 2014 campaigns out of the bullpen, this is who Brett Cecil is. And good for him, as he continues to add muscle to his offseason arbitration case.
Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna have the back end covered, but Cecil’s great value down the stretch will be as John Gibbons‘ parachute. There will come a situation where Gibbons needs a strikeout, perhaps with a runner on third and just one out. Cecil should be that man, especially facing a left-handed hitter, and his shutdown ability will allow for the remaining bullpen pieces to rotate around him.
The Blue Jays still hold one additional season of team control over Cecil, whose road from prospect to late-inning reliever has been fascinating to watch. You won’t hear his name in any awards conversations, and you’ll rarely see his name and number on the back of a jersey in the 500 level at the Rogers Centre, but we can’t leave him out of the conversation as Toronto’s most dominant player within his role since this great streak began.