ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Brett Cecil is ostensibly a lefty specialist. He throws from the left side. His career stats suggest an advantage against his fellow lefties. The Cardinals paid more than $30 million to secure him for four years as a compliment to lefty Kevin Siegrist, who notably pitches more effectively against righties.
Over eight years, Cecil has held southpaws to a slugging percentage 97 points softer than their righthanded counterparts. His strikeout to walk ratio is nearly two Ks better to lefties (4.02) than it is to righties (2.13). The OPS gap is more than 100 points.
Yet in 2017, lefthanded hitters are his nightmare, not the other way around.
“I can’t really put my finger on it. We’re seeing some really good outings from him, then some others that just don’t look like what we’ve seen from him in the past and what we knew he was doing in Toronto,” manager Mike Matheny said.
In the seventh inning of Friday’s opener with the Cubs. Cecil entered the game with a queue of Kyle Schwarber (L), Tommy La Stella (L) and Anthony Rizzo (L) waiting for him. Schwarber smashed a changeup that Randal Grichuk ran down, La Stella homered to left field, Rizzo walked. That was the end of his evening.
By the time Cecil hit the dugout, lefties’ average against him had risen to .464. Their OPS? A monstrous 1.414.
“I think it’s the curveball and the cutter both. We’ve seen both of them get hit,” Matheny said.
Cecil’s curveball has been his best pitch in recent years. Apart from his fastball, the hook was his most prominent pitch to lefties from 2010 to 2016 (684 total, 24%). They hit .188 against it and slugged just a whisper over .200.
So far this season, those numbers are .417 and .833, respectfully.
In May, lefties are slugging 1.75 on the curve. Yes, the decimal is in the right place.
He’s thrown 17 curveballs to hitters on the left side this month, trying it over the course of four different at bats. The results for the pitch have been bleak; one strikeout, a single, a double and a homer.
The cutter is just as erratic.
Both sides combined are hitting .333 against it, and the only time he used it against a lefty and didn’t walk them, he gave up a single.
Cecil, for his part, told reporters Saturday he’s flying open on his delivery. That means erratic location and unpredictable performance at a time when the Cardinals need him most.
“We talk about position players like this, too. They get on a new team and they want to make something happen. They want to show what they can do. It’s just taking Brett a little longer,” Matheny said.
Cecil’s price tag says St. Louis is willing to ride out the growing pains. His track record says he knows the formula for consistency. But at the moment, the Cardinals have a lefty specialist who can’t handle lefties.