When talking about Dylan Cease, the term head case gets thrown around a lot. After a second consecutive dominating performance, it might be time to call Dylan Cease what he really is. A stud.
Cease underwent Tommy-John surgery a few years back. During rehab, Cease spent much of his time meditating and practicing yoga, something he still does to this day. An inability to unravel early in his career had some questioning his mental fortitude. But,labeling him as a head case is an unfair critique, considering Cease entered the league with lofty expectations and has steadily improved each season. This season looks to be the breakout campaign fans have been waiting for.
Setting Career Highs
On Sunday, Cease played the role of stopper. After dropping three straight to the Orioles in an abysmal home stand, the White Sox were desperate for a win. Cease answered the call by tossing seven strong innings of one-run ball. In the process, he set a new career-high with 13 strikeouts.
The 26-year-old only allowed four-hit and a walk en route to his sixth victory of the season. His only blemish was a solo home run to Jonathan Arauz in the third inning. Cease pounded the strike zone all afternoon, throwing 67 of his 101 pitches for strikes, 21 of which were swinging.
Dylan Cease shut it down today. pic.twitter.com/LvN6bF7urp
— MLB (@MLB) June 26, 2022
Cease lowered his ERA for the season to 2.56 and moved into second in the MLB with 121 strikeouts. The Georgia native is in the middle of the most dominant stretch of his career to date. He owns a 2-1 record in five starts in June, posting a 0.33 ERA in 27.1 innings of work. Cease has only allowed 19 hits and racked up 45 punchouts. He is the front runner for American League pitcher of the month.
Don’t just take my word for it. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde had a front-row seat to what Dylan Cease can do to a lineup.
“That’s elite stuff,” Hyde said. “I was happy we got four hits off him. It’s three-plus pitches. It’s 100, it’s a bright day, so it’s tough to see. He’s throwing 100 with a nasty slider and nasty curveball… Very difficult to hit against.”
Cease’s arsenal of pitches is slowly becoming the most lethal in baseball. Against the Toronto Blue Jays, he struck out 11 hitters, with all of them coming on his slider. The opponents are hitting just .137 against his slider this season. That is no surprise, considering he has a whiff percentage of 46.3 when throwing it. His slider’s run value of -16 is amongst the best in baseball.
While his slider is his best pitch, he showed he reminded everyone just how good his fastball is when he has command against the Orioles. Cease recorded three strikeouts with his curveball and three with his fastball. He got Adley Rutschman with a 99.6 mph fastball in the third inning.
Not only do hitters have to worry about a filthy slider and blazing fastball, but Cease also mixes in a knuckle-curve with 8.2 inches of verticle movement.
Per Baseball Savant, Cease ranks among baseball’s elite starters this season. He is amongst the top five percentile in expected batting average, strikeout percentage, whiff rate, and fastball spin. He is also in the top ten percentile in expected weighted on-base average, ERA, slugging percentage, and fastball velocity.
It seems the only thing that can stop Cease is himself. Opponents are seldom making hard contact against him. When they do make contact, they are batting just .209. But yet, he has struggled to go deep into games. He is averaging slightly over five innings a start.
This can be attributed to his lack of command. Cease owns a 1.23 WHIP, nearly all of it coming from walks. His walk rate is the only thing that ranks near the bottom of the league. There is no reason to believe that Cease can’t correct this.
He has gotten better every season in the big leagues, and at 26 years old, he is just entering his prime. If Cease can reel in his command we could be looking at the best starter in baseball.