Here’s my ballsiest, way-too-early, 2015 Fantasy Baseball Prediction: Trevor Cahill becomes a fantasy asset again at age 27: the magical-mystery-kind.
For only the second time of his career last year, his FIP was sub-4.00, but his left-on-base rate was only 62.6% and his BABIP was 65 points higher than his career rate (.350 vs. .285). He was the trifecta (unlucky HR/FB rate as well) away from a 6.00+ ERA season.
The outcomes were bad. However, the outcomes on the pitch level were still impressive at times:
Per BP’s Pitchf/x leaderboard, in 2014, using 100 pitches as the qualifier, Cahill had the 3rd best Curveball (15% usage) from a whiff/swing perspective: only Gavin Floyd and Yusmeiro Petit induced more whiffs. Cahill’s Curve induced 5% more whiffs than Jose Fernandez’s. Just his Fourseamer gets shelacked, but it’s used less than 1% of the time. He also had a top-10 Changeup (19% usage): 43.42% which was sandwiched between impressive Cole Hamels and Corey Kluber Changeups. We have to change the qualifier to 40 pitches, but his Cutter/Slider whiff/swing rate was also a solid 30+%. Honestly, even his Sinker (59% usage) gets above average whiffs/swing (15.3% which is 22 of 175), but it’s value of inducing grounders is only above average (2.76 GB/FB, which is 76th out of 175). In 2013, his GB/FB ratio on the pitch approached 4.00 and in 2012, he had the 11th best ratio of 4.34.
Back to my prediction, which comes with far too many contingencies – Cahill becomes an asset again if:
a) He drops the FB and goes with a SI-CH-CB-CU/SL repertoire. Here is an image on his already diminishing usage of the FB:
As Uncle Joey from ‘Full House’ would say, “Cut it Out” (Thanks for the clarification, “Cason.”) See that last dot – back up to 2012 usage? It’s no surprise his September 2014 ERA was 7.13.
b) He has to work on getting the Sinker back to pre-2014 GB-inducing levels.
c) And finally, something I’ve been obsessed with recently, he has to work on his release point consistency.
I wrote this last week on Madison Bumgarner: What happens when he’s really on? By “on,” I mean consistent in release point, and when he is on, he has better outcomes than Clayton Kershaw did for the season. When he’s off, he’s basically Franklin Morales. Well…here is another Franklin Morales reference for you.
Based on all the bad luck (LOB% and BABIP), his release point didn’t have much weight on the surface, but the effect was pretty apparent on his balls in play and expected ERA’s.
In games where is release point was “on” or above his average, he had a 17.7% K-BB rate (~Jacob deGrom). In games where he was off, we’re looking at a 5.12% K-BB rate (again, Franklin Morales). His SIERA was 3.19 when on; 4.66 when off (oh look, Franklin Morales). His GB/FB ratio (1.80 vs. 2.70) was also distinguishable. A big problem with Cahill’s value in general is his BB-rate, which his release point consistency also obviously impacts from a command perspective: almost 5.0 BB/9 when he’s off vs. 2.7 when he’s on.
Here are Cahill’s RMSE’s (release point consistency scores) for his starts. The lower, the better. The correlations to the stats are on top. Green rows are games in which Cahill was 1 standard deviation or better than his average RMSE. His average stats (if each game had an equal pitch count) when “off” vs. “on” is noted right below the outcomes. The Baseball Savant Pull is the first tab for reference.
I’ll man up. For each standard 5×5 auction league that I am in, I will dish out $1.00 for Cahill. Go ahead and outbid me though.
Daniel Schwartz contributes for RotoGraphs when he's not selling industry leading thermal packaging. You can follow him on twitter @RotoBanter