Dylan Cease was one of, if not the best pitchers in the American League last year. He finished second in Cy Young voting and finally put all the flashes of potential together. People were expecting him to do much of the same this year, but so far that has not been the case.
The Stats Aren’t There
In his last seven starts, Cease has a 6.44 ERA and 1.57 WHIP. He got tagged for four runs in four innings in his last start against Detroit, bringing his season ERA to 4.88 with a 1.404 WHIP. For someone who almost won the Cy Young award, this is a significant regression.
Walks have always been an issue for Cease, as he lead the league in walks last year, but he was pitching so well it didn’t really matter because he was able to get out of any jam he was in. That magic has seemed to escape him this year.
This year he has a 4.2 BB/9 ratio compared to 3.8 last year, which is not a great sign. That number should be going down, especially after getting the confidence of being one of the best pitchers in the league. But what has changed so far?
His strikeouts are also down, as he only has 9.8 K/9 which is the second-lowest of his career. When you get in jams, strikeouts are very important because they do not allow the runners to advance. If you have high strikeout rates, it allows you to escape jams with limited to no damage. If those numbers are down, then it is less likely he will escape those jams.
The typical box score stats don’t always tell the whole story, but from looking at them it is not a great season for Cease. Sadly, the advanced metrics aren’t much better.
Advanced Stats Are Even Worse
Per Baseball Savant, Dyan Cease is a below-average pitcher this year. It wouldn’t take a genius to tell you that after watching him pitch, but digging into what is different this year is very interesting.
First, the main issue is he is getting hit hard like very few pitchers in the league. He is in the 6th percentile in hard hit percentage and in the 14th percentile in average exit velocity. Good things don’t happen when you are getting hit hard consistently.
Even one of his better categories, strikeout percentage, is in only the 58th percentile, which is right around average for the league. This is not a good sign considering that Cease is known as a strikeout pitcher. It doesn’t help that for some reason batters are not chasing his pitches, so the correlation is right there. That can show that the stuff just simply isn’t there.
Many of Cease’s categories are much worse than last year, including velocity on all of his pitches. He is only down by one MPH. His horizontal break on most of his pitches is considerably worse this year, which can allow pitches to stay in the zone longer and can become easier to hit. That would explain a lot as if his offspeed isn’t very effective, you won’t typically be effective as a starting pitcher.
Cease still has all the potential in the world. The first thing he needs to do to get back to his old self is to cut down on the walks. Once that improves, everything else will naturally improve, as the pitch counts will go down and it will be less stressful on his arm, as fewer people will be on base.
Hopefully, Cease can pull it together, as if the White Sox want to compete, they will need their ace to go out and shove every fifth day.