Being a White Sox full season ticket holder (not to brag) has it’s advantages and disadvantages when it comes to observing the team. On the pro side, I get to be there live while it’s all going down and ingest the sounds, smells and raw emotion of the ballpark. I also get to watch basically every game with a group of friends and talk about the game with them in person or any other bullshit (It’s Baseball. Beer. Bullshit. for a reason). On the con side, I am not getting to hear Jason Benetti or Steve Stone provide information that correlates with the activity I see on the field, I am not jumping to my phone to find exit velocities or heat maps of the strike zone that provide the hitter or pitcher their greatest probabilities of success. If I’m digging into my phone, it’s likely to take a skewed picture of the foul poll to make fun of myself.
I think at least for my observations of Dylan Cease this has me far from the rest of the pack on how I see him. As MySoxSummer and I would say to each other often upon watching him pitch (particularly in person)….”I am not sure this guy is any good.” Sure we noticed his stuff, as much as you can when your seat is perpendicular to the plate. We also noticed his velocity and his handsomeness, but what we noticed most is that he’s wild as fuck, he walks EVERYONES.
See the table above, this is cut from Fangraphs, it appears like issuing lots of walks has been a standard of Dylan Cease’s performance since he started getting paid to stride and kick. He has only had 1 stop along the way with less than a 10% walk rate. What does that mean? I cut separate charts from Fangraphs for the last 3 seasons, of qualified starting pitchers (“qualified” in this instance, just means they pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title) and sorted for worst walk rate. As you can see, not many are higher than what seems to be standard fare for Cease.
Not only aren’t these particularly good seasons, but they are fairly rare results, meaning, it is very difficult to be effective for longer stints with a walk rate like this AND more than likely, it hurts the pitchers ability to go deep into games (more pitches per inning, less innings you get to pitch, or something like that). Also, the higher your walk rate, the more you need a very good strike out rate to make it work. You can see Robbie Ray with +30% K-Rates, so it can be palatable if you strike out the whole ballpark. Last year Cease was at 24.9%, so maybe he can hike it up and become a strike out beast, but it seems the walks are still the problem. So what is exactly happening??
I went over to baseballsavant.com it’s a spiffy site although I am very far from understanding all of it’s capabilities. Anywho, I dragged in this chart. It’s a map of all of the 4 seam fastballs that Cease threw in 2019. He throws that pitch very fucking hard and very inaccurately. Those red dots are his fastball. YIKES!
This pitch map looks like it belongs to Ebby Calvin Nuke LaLoosh from the Durham Bulls, not a goddamn major league pitcher. I don’t think some of these pitches could be hit with a boat oar. Soooooo, some of the problem is trying not to hit the mascot, but what about the rest, can Yasmani Grandal be of some help in this instance?
Above is a chart from baseball savant, it’s located HERE if you want to play with it yourself. As you can see from the column that says “Runs Extra Strikes” Yasmani Grandal is pretty damn good at this pitch framing thing. He’s tied for 3rd in the majors last year (although with significantly more pitches received than the two above him). What we want to focus in closer on is the columns that say Zone 11, Zone 12 and Zone 13. The chart tells us what % of strikes they are able to secure on pitches in those zones. Think back to Cease’s chart from above, this is the area where he misses (sometimes by a lot) and probably needs some help stealing strikes. A cursory view of the full table (in the link provided above) sorted by each category will show you that Grandal is average to above average in all three of the noted zones. That seems good right?? WAIT!!
Let’s look at the incumbent, James McCann.
Ugh, that blue number -16 is hideous, WORST in the big leagues!! Gross. But WAIT.
If we just look at the zones in question (11, 12 & 13 as previously noted).
Zone 11 – McCann 22.0% vs Grandal 19.3%
Zone 12 – McCann 50.5% vs Grandal 51.5%
Zone 13 – McCann 27.0% vs Grandal 30.9%
The are pretty comparable in the “Danger Zone” ($1 Kenny Loggins)
It seems like most of this is going to be on Cease’s shoulders and in spite of his stoic outward appearance which gets brought up constantly, I think at least part of the problem is a tight keister. I don’t know if the guy needs a traditional slump buster or to envision the batters naked or some of the newly legalized medicinal plants of Illinois or any other modern presentation relaxation methodologies. All I know is he needs to throw more strikes and he better do that soon, otherwise, he’ll be enjoying the comforts of the tech hub of the south, Charlotte.