This, folks, is what you call a career reinvention.
As it often does with these types of narratives, Brett Cecil‘s 2013 started with a make-or-break scenario: having unequivocally failed to cut it as a starter for the Toronto Blue Jays but having shown a surprising ability to coax outs against lefties (.214/.281/.281 triple-slash against), the 27-year old would be given a chance to remake himself in the bullpen.
The prevailing thought was that he could provide the bluebirds with a solid LOOGY for situational use, but as you know by now, that’s just not what Cecil had in mind.
Instead of just being an interchangable piece of the bullpen, the southpaw was looking forward to one thing: helping this team move towards a playoff run — and that kind of goal tends to require greatness from relievers, who are often the most underrated but most crucial part to a team’s success down the stretch.
So greatness it was, then. With a fastball that all of a sudden averaged 92.1 mph (career high) and having abandoned his slider for a cutter and a increased focus on his sinker and curve, Cecil rebuilt his repertoire to get a few outs at a time, and it didn’t take very long before a few outs piled on to being a few more, and so on.
All of a sudden, outs were all he was starting to get.
Having allowed runs in just four out of his 38 appearances this season for the Blue Jays prior to his two-run misstep on Sunday, Cecil now finds himself not only as the team’s most valuable pitcher — starter or otherwise — at 1.2 fWAR (tied with Mark Buehrle), but his 1.81/0.87 ERA/WHIP continues to be one of the very best splits among MLB relievers.
But the most unanticipated thing? He’s become a veritable strikeout artist, generating a career-high 11.9 percent swinging strikes that’s given him a splendid 10.48 K/9 to a 3.02 BB/9.
Combined with a career-best 47.1 ground ball rate, and it’s no wonder why Cecil has an all-but unrecognizable .157 BAA that ranks him among the top-10 in the game.
All the talent and expectations that came with the lefty as a former top organization prospect is now coming out in spades, and considering that he was a strong candidate to be cut loose by the team only one season ago, that he will now be representing the Blue Jays at the Midsummer Classic is truly remarkable.
Sure, it might not be the way the team envisioned with Cecil in the rotation, but with how much effort GM Alex Anthopoulos has put into reinforcing the bullpen over his rebuilding project, I don’t think he’ll mind that one of the most important pieces to his quest has emerged from the unlikeliest of internal sources.