Dylan Cease off to a dream start with Padres

Apr 22, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Dylan Cease (84) pitches in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

When the Padres executed a trade for Dylan Cease before the season started, the expectation was he would add solid depth to the starting rotation. Almost a month into the season, Cease has had a dream start.

Dylan Cease darn near won the AL Cy Young in 2022. He posted a microscopic 2.20 ERA in 184 innings, good enough for a stellar 180 ERA+. Were it not for a historic season for the ageless wonder Justin Verlander, Cease would have a Cy Young in his trophy room.

2023 was a step back, with some worse luck, on a worse team.

The version of Cease the Padres are currently getting looks an awful lot like the Cy Young runner-up from two seasons ago. The Padres needed to replace three starting pitchers in Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Seth Lugo, and Michael Wacha. Even after acquiring Michael King in the Juan Soto trade, the Padres’ rotation desperately needed added depth.

A.J. Preller swung a deal with the Chicago White Sox to obtain Cease for Jairo Iriarte, Drew Thorpe, Samuel Zavala, and Steven Wilson.

Cease owns a 1.82 ERA and an astronomical 218 ERA+ through five starts. He ranks second in the National League in WHIP (.742), third in ERA and ERA+, and sixth in strikeouts (35).

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His fastball velocity is up a tick from last season, going from 95.6 mph last year to 96.7 mph this season. His spin rate is also slightly up from last season. Give pitching coach Ruben Niebla some credit; it appears Cease is back to his old, ace-like form.

Monday at Coors Field was a new level for Cease in a Padres uniform. He turned in one of the most dominant pitching performances by any pitcher in Coors Field history.

Through 128 career starts, only four starts in Cease’s entire career had a higher “Game Score” than his outing against the Rockies on Monday. It was higher than any start he had all of last season.

Against right-handed batters, he has been even more dominant. Right-handers are 1-for-52 (.019) this season against the Georgia native, with a .142 OPS. The home-road splits are a negligible difference. He has pitched just as well at Coors Field as he has at Petco Park.

He now has gone at least six innings in four straight starts. Only Joe Musgrove has pitched more innings than Cease this season, with a whole extra start under his belt.

Certainly, it is early in the season. Assuming he is fully healthy all season, he has basically 28 starts left. A lot can happen over five months. However, if the Padres and Cease could have drawn up an ideal start for him in a Padres uniform, you’re looking at it.

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