Trevor Cahill is showing flashes of brilliance

Last season, Trevor Cahill’s first seven games were quite successful. He went 3-2 with a 3.27 era and 51 strikeouts in 41.1 innings pitched. After the 7th game he ended up on the DL with a shoulder injury and never got back to the same form he displayed earlier. Now back with the team where his career began, Cahill will be a big part of the Oakland Athletics push for the playoffs. He has shown flashes of great stuff, but injuries have muddled his performance. Since the All-Star break, he’s posted a record of 3-0 with a 3.95 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 27.1 innings pitched. Two out of the five games pitched have been blowups, so what is going on here? Let’s dive into this season numbers.

Year Team IP W L K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP
2014 Diamondbacks 110.2 3 12 8.54 4.47 0.73 .350 62.60 5.61 3.89
2015 Braves/Cubs 43.1 1 3 7.48 3.32 0.83 .310 62.10 5.40 3.92
2016 Cubs 65.2 4 4 9.05 4.8 0.96 .246 84.60 2.74 4.35
2017 Padres/Royals 84 4 3 9.32 4.82 1.71 .326 76.30 4.93 5.28
2018 Athletics 79.2 4 2 8.81 2.71 0.68 .279 73.00 3.39 3.23

Trevor Cahill has had a long and adventurous career. Even though I am only showing MLB numbers, he’s bounced around various levels in the minors. Things started to click in 2016 when he was shifted to the bullpen with the Chicago Cubs, and then he brought some of that success to the San Diego Padres the following season. Now this year, the biggest improvement seems to be his walks per 9 as the number has fallen to a career-best 2.71. His home run to fly ball ratio has fallen to 11.5%, and his left on base percentage look very sustainable. His FIP is at 3.23 which indicates he’s been pitching very well and it’s pretty close to his ERA, so I love what he’s been able to do. Let’s see if his plate discipline shows improvements.

Year Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
2014 Diamondbacks 29.30% 61.20% 40.80% 56.90% 89.60% 74.60% 36.10% 57.10% 10.30%
2015 Braves/Cubs 29.40% 64.60% 44.00% 62.90% 89.00% 78.80% 41.50% 58.80% 9.30%
2016 Cubs 28.20% 61.50% 41.20% 57.10% 84.40% 73.00% 39.00% 54.60% 11.00%
2017 Padres/Royals 29.30% 60.60% 41.80% 53.40% 88.40% 73.60% 40.00% 59.80% 11.00%
2018 Athletics 30.90% 64.20% 44.30% 51.30% 83.50% 70.00% 40.10% 57.50% 13.20%

There’s a lot to like and he’s made a lot of gains across the board. He’s getting more batters to swing off the plate at 30.9%, and they are swinging at a career-best 44.3%. These are also helping his swinging strike percentage, which is also at a career-best 13.2%. He is limiting the overall contact to 70.0%, also a career-best. As we can see, Cahill is doing a fantastic job this year. Let’s see what the batted ball results are.

Year Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
2014 Diamondbacks 1.79 24.40% 48.50% 27.10% 5.60% 10.10% 45.10% 32.50% 22.40% 11.60% 52.50% 35.80%
2015 Braves/Cubs 3.57 19.20% 63.10% 17.70% 4.30% 17.40% 39.80% 36.10% 24.10% 22.60% 45.10% 32.30%
2016 Cubs 2.61 21.70% 56.60% 21.70% 2.60% 18.40% 46.60% 33.70% 19.70% 20.20% 50.00% 29.80%
2017 Padres/Royals 2.11 18.10% 55.60% 26.30% 4.70% 25.00% 47.20% 34.10% 18.70% 22.40% 48.80% 28.90%
2018 Athletics 2.13 20.90% 53.90% 25.20% 5.80% 11.50% 47.40% 35.70% 16.90% 10.30% 47.40% 42.30%

His numbers this year are very similar to last year. The big difference is the home run to fly ball ratio like I mentioned before. Something to keep an eye on is he’s allowing more hard contact than ever before. It hasn’t burned him too badly, so maybe the pitch usage has changed.

Pitch Usage %
Year Team Fourseam Sinker Cuter Slider Curveball Changeup
2014 Diamondbacks 5.32 58.52 1.97 0.27 15.07 18.85
2015 Braves/Cubs 1.19 53.13 16.82 0.00 12.65 16.22
2016 Cubs 6.78 47.70 0.26 0.00 19.20 26.06
2017 Padres/Royals 7.13 39.93 0.00 8.84 21.72 22.38
2018 Athletics 4.24 36.31 0.00 17.96 15.53 25.80
Batting Average Against
Year Team Fourseam Sinker Cutter Slider Curveball Changeup
2014 Diamondbacks .261 .312 .333 .000 .143 .265
2015 Braves/Cubs .000 .276 .320 .000 .400 .162
2016 Cubs .214 .288 .000 .000 .115 .106
2017 Padres/Royals .222 .359 .000 .355 .151 .250
2018 Athletics .200 .284 .000 .298 .104 .173

And what do you know, his pitch usage has changed. His fourseam, sinker, and curve ball, have all decreased in favor of his new slider and changeup. What’s interesting is that he didn’t really throw his slider from 2012 to 2016; maybe it was not a good pitch. Looking at the batting average, hitters are having the most success against the slider with a .298 average. His best pitch by far has been his changeup. Batters are only hitting .173 so it should come as no surprise that he is throwing it 25.59%. I wonder if the pitch has any movement changes.

Vertical Movement (Inches)
Year Team Fourseam Sinker Cuter Slider Curveball Changeup
2014 Diamondbacks 7.39 3.29 2.52 -0.76 -7.24 -0.01
2015 Braves/Cubs 8.39 4.39 3.69 0.00 -6.82 0.71
2016 Cubs 8.19 4.07 2.61 0.00 -7.04 0.28
2017 Padres/Royals 7.77 3.62 0.00 0.92 -6.51 1.01
2018 Athletics 8.60 4.04 0.00 3.83 -6.83 -0.63

Trevor Cahill is throwing a tick harder than last season as his velocity sits at 93 MPH. His changeup has been his best pitch and it’s looking really good. He’s now getting downward movement at 0.63 inches, and it’s the most he’s ever gotten with it. His curveball is also seeing a slight increase and now drops 6.83 inches. The slider is lacking the downward movement that he has shown in the past with the pitch rising to 3.83 inches. Not sure if that is the reason why it’s not successful, but overall his better pitches are better.

With Trevor Cahill, I see a guy who has made changes to his repertoire and is limiting contact at a career rate. Hard contact is an issue, and even though the batted balls haven’t changed from last year, we can assume he is locating better. His good pitches have more vertical movement and that’s contributing to the success. Injuries have stalled his progression for consistency, but at the end of the year we may be looking at his best season yet.

 

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Jordan Lyn

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Watching one hockey game after another until the night is over.

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