Relief pitchers have always taken a backseat to the spotlight, forever portrayed as any roster’s outcast misfits. Even fantasy owners have been reluctant to invite the position to the party. The category of “Holds” is only crawling into the mainstream, when in fact, one of the most important parts of any team’s reality is the call to the bullpen.
It’s time this lackadaisical effort changes, and a prime example of the value brought forth by the “mop-up” men is none other than Toronto Blue Jays‘ own Brett Cecil.
Cecil first came on the scene as a highly praised southpaw-closer out of the University of Maryland, taken by the Jays in the first round (32nd overall) in the 2007 Amateur Draft, with the game plan of transforming the lefty into a starting pitcher and fixture of its future rotation. The downward spiral soon unfolded.
Over the course of his 2009 MLB debut to late 2012, Cecil became a broken-down commodity. It was becoming increasingly clear that he was not built to withstand the workhorse punishment that one endures taking the mound every fifth day. With a rapid decrease in velocity and an alarming breakneck home run rate, a reinvention had to take place.
Cecil accomplished just that. Let’s take a look at his career peaks and valleys:
His three-year run in the rotation:
2009: 93.1 IP / 5.30 ERA / 1.65 WHIP / 1.6 HR/9 / 6.7 K/9
2010: 172.2 IP / 4.22 ERA / 1.32 WHIP / 0.9 HR/9 / 6.1 K/9
2011: 123.2 IP / 4.73 ERA / 1.32 WHIP / 1.6 HR/9 / 6.3 K/9
After his 2012 soul-searching transition and “banishment” to the bullpen, came his new found identity:
2013: 60.2 IP / 2.82 ERA / 1.10 WHIP / 0.6 HR/9 / 10.4 K/9
The Blue Jays’ 2013 debacle was only kept afloat due in large part to the remarkable sustainability of their bullpen. As the 2014 season rapidly approaches, with a starting staff already walking on cracked eggshells, deja vu will soon set in.
Cecil’s bread and butter was in short-stint appearances from the very beginning, and 2013 was just an introduction to a future dominant reputation, not to mention his day job of Jays’ rotation savior.
Middle relief is a deserted island to the masses. Here’s hoping the recognition is awarded sometime in the next, say 25 years.