Once a prospect establishes himself as a big leaguer, it's easy to let him fall into the hands of the mainstream media. We specialize in getting out information on guys who are unknowns to the typical baseball fan. But why lose tract of a guy because most fans have become familiar with him?
With the help of PitchFX, we've decided to give some of 2009's rookie pitchers a prospect encore. Let's start the reviews with Trevor Cahill.
A consensus top 25 prospect entering 2009, Cahill broke camp as a member of Oakland's rotation. Thirty starts later, we have a ton of data on the 21-year-old -- 2,827 pitches to be exact.
Disclaimer: The data below is from www.brooksbaseball.net's PitchFX tool. One of the biggest flaws with PitchFX is misclassified pitches; the pitch classification data below isn't perfect. I've estimated velocity ranges for changeups, curveballs and sliders -- fastball velos should be pretty accurate. For simplicity, I've combined fastballs (Cahill throws a good mix of two and four-seamers). I didn't go back and watch game footage for this report. It's largely based on PitchFX data.
Many of Cahill's fastball swing-throughs have come with his two-seamer, which I see as an above-average pitch -- due to the swing-throughs and ground balls. His four-seamer isn't special. Approximately 62% of Cahill's pitches have been fastballs; he throws around 58 per start (he's averaged 94 pitches per start). His fastball has sat in the 88-93 MPH range.
Overall, this pitch isn't dominant. But it's good enough, especially in combination with his changeup.
Surprisingly, Cahill's changeup has been his best strikeout pitch this season. He has gotten at least one swing-through with it in 29 of his 30 starts -- throws it about 29% of the time. The pitch has typically ranged from 80-86 MPH, which makes me wonder if PitchFX is classifying some of Cahill's fastballs as changeups. Assuming the data is relatively accurate, there's a case to be made that Cahill's changeup is the reason he's been able to stick in the big leagues this season. Without all the swing-throughs he's generated with it, he'd likely be quite hittable.
According to PitchFX, Cahill has thrown just four curveballs over his last eight starts and has generated only six swing-throughs with the pitch all season. I was listening to the A's game on the radio yesterday and I did hear the A's announcers acknowledge that the A's have basically had Cahill scrap his knuckle-curve this season, a pitch that Cahill said was his go-to pitch last season. He's instead focussing on improving his slider.
After totalling double-digits in sliders thrown just once from April 7th through August 1st, a span of 22 starts, Cahill has thrown 10 or more sliders in five of his last eight starts. As he's thrown the pitch with more frequency, he has not, however, generated a larger percentage of swing-throughs with it.
Here's what I had to say about Cahill after watching and charting his first two MLB starts:
Cahill's sinker is a very good pitch. The movement he gets with it and his ability to throw it at so many different speeds are really what make him special. Velocities junkies should realize that even though his two-seamer probably won't reach the mid-90s often, he hides the ball well, which makes the pitch appear faster than it is. Cahill's curveball is a potential plus pitch. If he can harness it -- can be wicked at times -- then he'll blossom into a No. 1-2 starter. Until then, he's probably going to nibble his way through more than a few short outings, maintaining his hold on a big league rotation spot due to his ability to work down in the zone and lack of mistake pitches.
It's likely that Cahill's BABIP against will rise from this season's 27.4% to closer to 30% in 2010. Don't rule out the possibility that Cahill could struggle to match his relatively successful 2009 totals in 2010.
Cahill has commanded the zone well and put up a 50% ground ball rate. But his ability to fool hitters with either of his breaking balls is clearly holding him back. He's still plenty young enough to improve either his curve or slider; it appears that he's being instructed to work on his slider. Even if he struggles to find success with a breaking ball and doesn't rack up a ton of strikeouts, Cahill could surface as a near league-average starter as soon as 2010. He has top-of-the-rotation upside.
2009 Grade: C-
|Date||FB velo||ST||Tot||CH velo||ST||Tot||CB velo||ST||Tot||SL velo||ST||Tot||PC|
|* ST stands for swing-through; Tot is the number of times a pitch was thrown; PC stands for pitch count|