Are the Blue Jays buying or selling pitching? Maybe both. While Toronto has been linked to the likes of Gavin Floyd and Joe Blanton, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports Tweets that teams are inquiring on Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil. Rosenthal says the Jays are reluctant to move Drabek (whose control woes we covered last week) with his stock way down. Cecil, 25, was a serviceable starter in 2010. But the lefty also underachieved last year by giving up lots of fly balls -- and subsequently long balls -- to right-handed hitters.
In 2010, Cecil served up 15 home runs to righty batters and allowed them to slug .438 (the average for lefty starters vs. righty hitters is about 30 points below that). Last year, though, right-handers popped 22 homers despite Cecil's innings pitched total dipping from 172.2 to 123.2, and they slugged .539. Every homer that Cecil gave up in '11 came against righties. With opposite-handed batters mauling him, Cecil's HR/9 jumped from 0.9 to 1.6, and his ERA+ declined from 99 to 90.
Cecil threw more pitches high in the strike zone to righties (35%, compared to 31% in 2010), and his fly ball rate against them spiked from 34% to 46%. Check out his fly ball rate by pitch location vs. right-handers in 2010, and then 2011. Righties lofted most anything he tossed in the upper third of the zone last year:
He had an especially hard time keeping his sinker down. Cecil threw 31% of his sinkers high in the zone in 2010, but that increased to 42% during his homer-prone 2011. He also lost velocity on the pitch, averaging 88.5 mph after throwing it 89.3 mph in 2010. Not surprisingly, Cecil gave up 12 HR on sinkers last year, compared to seven in 2010.
Cecil apparently was one of baseball's Biggest Losers over the winter, shedding 35 pounds from his formerly 250 pound frame. But adding velocity and sink to his pitches against righties (and avoiding bad-intentioned blenders) will determine whether he returns to form in 2012, be it in Toronto or elsewhere.