Most sabermatricians — a group in which I count myself — believe that if a pitcher can start, he should. There have been many studies, but the simple idea is that 200 “average” innings provide more valuable than 80 “elite” relief innings.
This has been proven statistically and is logically supported as well. Plenty of teams take starters who lack command, consistency, or longevity and make them relievers, but this does not work in reverse. San Diego Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner is the perfect example of the difficulty and importance of this process.
Between 2012 and 2013, Cashner has nine starts and 33 relief appearances. Though this is somewhat the case due to injuries and need, the Padres would probably be better off by consistently cementing Cashner’s role. He has started four straight turns through the rotation, so hopefully the Padres will end the speculation and keep Cashner as a starter.
In just 46 innings in 2012, Cashner had a K/9 of over 10, and that was no fluke. He is undoubtedly an elite strikeout pitcher. The only distinct flaw with Cashner is that he has never pitched 110 innings in a season in the major or minor leagues.
Though he may not sustain his unbelievable strikeout rate over a huge season, he could get close. Pitching half of his games in Petco Park, Cashner will get away with allowing a large number of fly balls. If he pitches with confidence, knowing that his defense and ballpark will aid his success, he could easily have as many strikeouts as innings pitched.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.