RotoWire Partners

Circling the Bases: Cahill Denier

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.

BREAKING DOWN: Trevor Cahill
I'm about to get in a whole lot of trouble.

Back on March 8th I wrote an article in which Icompared Trevor Cahill to C.J. Wilson. Here's a quote from that article. “I simply don't understand how Wilson is coming off the board 106 picks after Cahill... Straight up I would take Wilson over Cahill. If I could wait 5-7 rounds to take Wilson - sign me up for that windfall.” So, with six weeks in the books, how does that prediction look?

Cahill: 6-1, 1.82 ERA, 46 Ks, 1.16 WHIP in 59.1 IP
Wilson: 4-2, 3.38 ERA, 50 Ks, 1.32 WHIP in 61.1 IP

Given the large difference in their ADP marks coming into the year --- OK you're right, I was wrong to this point. The real question is "Will I be wrong at the end of the season?"

Cahill surprised the world with a 2.97 ERA last season, after posting a 4.63 mark in his first season in 2009. Obviously he's pitching even better this year with his sub-2.00 ERA, or is he? Let's investigate.

One of my biggest concerns with Cahill coming into the year was his lack of a true strikeout pitch. An impressive K-artist in his minor league days (he had a 9.9 K/9 mark), Cahill posted a 4.53 mark in 2009 and a 5.40 mark in 2010. I never said that Cahill couldn't be an effective hurler in the big leagues with a mark that low, his ability to cause batters to pound the ball into the ground is impressive (52 percent ground ball rate), it's just that predicting elite level production from a guy who relies on grounders finding his fielders gloves seemed foolish.

Right out of the gate, Cahill erased all those concerns with eight Ks in his first outing, seven in his second, and nine in his fourth for a total of 27 Ks in just 25.1 innings. Did he miraculously rediscover his lost K-ball? Well, maybe not. Over his last 34 innings he has just 19 Ks. Given his work over his previous two seasons, it would seem safer to posit that he is the hurler that we have seen for 67 of his 71 career starts and not the one who jumped out of the gate this year looking like a strikeout ace. At this point Cahill has a still impressive (for him) K/9 rate of 6.98 - though for some perspective the big league average this year is still better at 7.07 per nine. If he can truly hold on to that 1.5 batter increase from last season then it will go a long ways toward allowing him to continue his hot start, but I'm a bit stubborn so I'm going to need to see him continue this pace before I buy into it as his new level.

Even if you totally disagree with me on that position, you still have to be concerned about some serious regression with Cahill, right? Come on now, you know you want to say yes. Let's go point by point.

(1) I think we can all agree that Cahill isn't likely to go 24-4 this year, right? Who do you think he is, Dwight Gooden?

(2) Maybe Cahill is one of those players who will simply outperform the major league average in BABIP year after year. His current mark of .270 still seems to low to me given that his current line drive rate is 20.5 percent. Maybe the line drive rate will dip moving forward, his career mark is 17 percent, and the end result will end up being a wash? Still, when you allow so many balls to be put in play, you are always a bit more reliant on your fielders and the “luck” factor to help you to glory.

(3) Here's my biggest current worry with Cahill - his left on base percentage is 86 percent. There is less than a one percent chance that he will be able to keep that up all year. In fact, if you pressed me, I'd actually say he has zero chance of keeping that up, but with the way Jose Bautista thinks he is Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds, I guess anything has to be admitted as possible. Still, I don't know about you, but betting on a race horse who has only one percent chance of winning is a foolish bet, is it not? For a little context, the big league average is usually around 70 percent and Cahill posted a 76.5 percent mark last year.

(4) That LOB% leads right into Cahill's ERA outlook. Last year his ERA was 2.97 while his xFIP revealed him to be a pitcher who should have had a mark a full run higher at 3.99. This season Cahill's ERA is 1.82 and his xFIP is 3.09, again more than a full batter above where is raw ERA rests. The initial reaction might be to just say 'I can't really explain it, but clearly Cahill is just one of those guys who exceeds expectations.' My reply to that position is that we simply don't have enough data to draw that conclusion. I'll admit that each year there are tons of instances where guys perform at unexpected levels. As analysts we attempt to find those situations and either warn you about regression or try to tell you to jump on the players before you have to go and dump 35 percent of your free agent budget to pick the guy up off waivers when everyone suddenly realizes just well that player is performing. In this instance though I'm just not buying that Cahill is going to be able to keep this up.

I'm not sold that he will be able to maintain his current K-rate.
I'm not sold that he will be able to maintain his current LOB%.
I'm not sold that he will be able to maintain his current ERA.

Could I end up being wrong? That possibility certainly exists. I'm just dealing in the world of probability here, and with that my recommendation would be to deal Cahill now if someone is looking at him and thinking he is going to be a top-20 pitcher in mixed leagues this year.

WHO AM I?

In each of the past six years I've hit at least 11 homers while averaging 18 homers a year.

In each of the past six years I've knocked in at least 68 runners while averaging 79 RBI a year. Moreover, I've eclipsed the 80-RBI threshold in each of the last three seasons.

I've scored at least 57 runs in each of the past six years while averaging 79 runs a campaign.

All of that may not sound like much until you realize the following - only 21 guys in baseball have hit 11 homers with at least 81 RBI in each of the past three seasons. Of that group of 21, 16 of them are infielders.

I have more home runs, six, than all fantasy eligible shortstops other than Troy Tulowitzki (10) this season.

I have a better batting average (.305) than Stephen Drew (.276), Jimmy Rollins (.276), Derek Jeter (.255) and Tulowitzki (.253).

I have more RBI than Hanley Ramirez (23 to 14).

I've scored the same amount of runs as Stephen Drew (18).

Who am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

.115: The batting average of Lance Berkman the past two weeks. If you triple that number you end up at .345. Do you know what his season long batting average is? How about .344.

.367: The batting average of Matt Joyce. To put that ridiculous number in context, Joyce's career batting average is .267.

1: The number of pitchers who have at least 45 strikeouts this season while walking less than 10 batters after Cliff Lee's Monday night debacle of six walks pushed his season long total up to 13 free passes. The only member of the club is the Angels' Dan Haren who is seventh in baseball with 61 Ks to go along with his eight free passes.

2.25: The steal to hit ratio of Jarrod Dyson of the Royals as he has nine steals and only four hits through 16 appearances for the club. For his career Dyson has 18 steals and just 16 hits cementing his reputation as a fleet of foot late inning replacement who is inserted into games to run like the dickens. Everyone was making a big deal about the early season exploits of the Astros' Jason Bourgeois but his steal to hit ratio is relatively minor when compared to Dyson as he has 12 steals and 22 hits for a ratio of 0.55.

8: The number of times that Harmon Killebrew went deep 40 times during his illustrious career. That mark ties him with Barry Bonds for the second most all-time behind Babe Ruth, who did it 11 times. Amongst active players the leader is Alex Rodriguez who also has eight 40 homer efforts. Behind A-Rod are two other active players who have pulled off the trick six times. One should be obvious in Albert Pujols. Hell, both should be obvious since the other man has hit 591 homers in his career, the eighth highest mark in the history of the game. That man is Jim Thome.

12: The league leading hold mark of Rafael Betancourt of the Rockies. Only two other men are in double-digits with Tony Sipp and Jonny Venters, racking up 10 each. Old timer Jason Isringhausen is actually next on the list with nine - the same total as Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour.

14: The amount of runs that Vin Mazzaro allowed Monday night while recording only seven outs. Putting aside the atrocious decision of a manager to allow any player to suffer such a severe beat, there is history to discuss. The 14 runs he allowed were the most by a relief pitcher in 69 years. Poor guy.

I AM...

The Tigers' Jhonny Peralta.

Peralta is almost always overlooked despite posting strong counting totals. He's been particularly hot the past two weeks hitting .381 with five bombs and 14 RBI in his last 12 games. There are certainly worse options than the SS/3B eligible bat, especially with all the injuries that the hot corner is dealing with.


Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 211 and XM 147. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.