The Strikeouts are Coming for Trevor Cahill

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Credit: USA Today Sports

On January 20th, 2017 the San Diego Padres signed Oceanside native, Trevor Cahill, to a 1-year/$1.75 million dollar contract.

Cahill was coming off a strong season out of the bullpen for the World Series Champion Cubs, in which he was 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 50 games. However, Cahill was not looking for a bullpen spot with the Padres. While Cahill had offers of greater caliber from other teams, he chose to accept the contract San Diego offered him, knowing that it would lead to a clearer path for him to start games.

Many questions came with the 6’4” right-hander though. The last time Cahill was a starter, he posted a 3-12 record with a 5.61 ERA in 32 games with the Diamondbacks in 2014. In just three starts this season however, Cahill has looked like the Padres’ most effective starter.

Sure, he has a 1-2 record with a 4.50 ERA. Sure, he looked absolutely pitiful against a below-average team in the Atlanta Braves. But, Cahill surely has the stuff to be the head of the Padres’ rotation this season. In 24 innings this season, Cahill has struck out 30 batters, while walking 11. While at times he has been hit hard before yesterday’s start, opposing hitters were batting .182 against him, with a .303 slugging percentage. His 10.31 strikeouts per nine innings are among the highest currently in the league, and his 60% ground ball percentage also ranks amongst the best in major league baseball.

Numbers, however, don’t always define how truly good a pitcher is. While Cahill is not going to put up spectacular ace-like numbers, he has the tools and the arsenal to be an ace-caliber starter in the big leagues. Let’s start with Cahill’s sinker. While not being a put-away pitch for Cahill, his sinker generates a very high amount of ground balls compared to those of other right-handed pitchers in baseball. His swing-and-miss pitch is his curveball, which generates an extremely high number of swing and misses compared to the average pitcher’s curveball. Cahill has a natural sinking changeup in his arsenal and a four seam fastball with plus velocity, which generates high rates of ground balls. Cahill also has a slider with 12-6 movement that can be combined with his curveball to generate strikeouts.

I believe that Cahill has the potential to have a great year due to the fact that he can generate ground balls at a high rate, while also striking a ton of batters out. By doing so he has the ability to keep hitters off balance, since he can come at them with an array of pitches that all have different effects. For example, he has the ability to attack hitters with a plus-speed fastball, and then throw them off balance with a put away slider/curveball combination.

While it is true that Cahill has fantastic stuff and the potential for him to have a great season is extremely high, we have seen some struggles already in the young season. Cahill has had trouble leaving the ball up in the zone to good fastball hitting teams, which is the reason why, at times, he has been hit hard (aka the Atlanta Braves series). He’s also already had problems putting hitters away. In more than one instance, Cahill has gotten into a pitcher’s count with hitters, and has not been able to put them away. With the type of pitcher he is, it is essential for him to be able to put hitters away in plus counts.

Trevor Cahill will be one of the few bright spots this season when it comes to the Padres’ starting rotation. He may not have ace-caliber stuff, but Cahill can certainly hold his own and give the Padres quality innings. His future with the team is uncertain, as the Padres may try to flip him for a prospect, but while he is with the Padres, Cahill will be a productive starter with the team.

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