2015 Comeback Player of the Year: Brett Cecil
At the start of the season, it was known Brett “Goggles” Cecil was going to be in the bullpen. The only question was where? He was the longest-tenured member of the Blue Jays ‘pen, which meant he would have first chance to replace the departed Casey Janssen in the closer role. However, at the end of Spring Training, it was young Miguel Castro who held the baton. It wouldn’t last long, as Castro was sent to Buffalo after a month. By default, Cecil was now the closer.
Toronto Blue Jays
Cecil’s time attempting to nail down games for the Blue Jays was like watching a rookie kayaker get confident paddling through relatively calm waters until hitting the rapids and getting trapped sideways against some rocks. May was a fine month for Cecil, as he only allowed one run in eight innings. The trouble arose in mid-June, during a stretch against the Mets and Orioles. Cecil lost himself, giving up eight runs in three appearances, ballooning his ERA from 3.10 to 5.96. That was enough for John Gibbons, who dropped Cecil from the closer role to hand it to Roberto Osuna.
Perhaps Cecil needed to clear his head from the pressure of being the finisher. After giving up four runs against Baltimore, Cecil did not allow a single earned run for the remainder of the season. 37 times those goggles stared down hitters in the box, and not one of those runners who looked back would cross the plate. Cecil did allow two unearned runs in September, but clearly they weren’t his fault. Cecil finished with a 2.46 ERA in 63 games and his ERA splits speak for themselves. In 18 save situations, Cecil had an ERA of 3.95 and batters were on base at a .305 clip. In 43 other appearances, those numbers drop to 1.99 and .234 respectively, while his strikeout rate doubled. Cecil is not closer material, but he is excellent set-up man material.
Cecil’s value was highlighted in the playoffs when Mike Napoli barrel rolled into his calf, knocking him out of the playoffs. Given Aaron Loup‘s family emergency, it would have been nice to have the shutdown lefty in the pen to deal with some of those pesky Royals hitters. The 2015 Comeback Player of the Year award is little consolation, but it should spur Cecil on in 2015 now that he knows what he is, and what he can do to hitters with that knowledge.