Slanted Sabr: Trevor Cahill is Being Sent Down to Fix Nonexistant Problems


On Monday the Arizona Diamondbacks designated pitcher Trevor Cahill for assignment. The move represents the end of a long saga of disappointment for the Snakes, who were counting on Cahill to be a top-line starter. Indeed, in his first two seasons for Arizona after being acquired in a mega-trade for Colin Cowgil, Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook, Cahill pitched to a 3.87 ERA. But since then Cahill has battled injuries and poor pitching, which lead to a move to the bullpen this season.

slanted sabr logoThat all seems to merit the DFA, despite the fact that the D-Backs still have almost $20 Million dollars of owed salary tied up in him, plus two club options. But is it, really? Since moving to the bullpen Cahill has pitched to a 3.04 ERA. That’s pretty freaking good for a starter who underwent an emergency conversion to relief. And even if you take into account Cahill’s time as a starter this year, his ugly 5.66 ERA isn’t representative of the whole picture.

Enter our old friends FIP and BABIP. I’ve written quite a bit about these two statistics recently, but they never fail to be quality indicators of true pitching quality. FIP and xFIP give him marks of 4.10 and 3.96, which is quite a far cry from 5.66. His BABIP is even more telling. It sits at a .368 mark, which is a far cry from his career average .281 mark.

It seems Trevor Cahill has just been getting ridiculously unlucky. Perhaps “had been” is a better way to state it, since he’d been a strong bullpen piece so far. So you have to ask yourself, how did the Arizona front office not see this? We all know GM Kevin Towers has made some boneheaded moves in the past, but you have to wonder if this is a result of there being too many cooks in the kitchen. Nobody’s quite sure where the decisions actually come from in Arizona anymore. Ever since Tony LaRussa was brought in to oversee all baseball operations, it hasn’t been clear if Towers has been unofficially removed from power.

Yet this is a case where the truth is so painfully obvious to anyone who looks at statistics besides ERA. All front offices have their own metrics with which players are graded by, but is Arizona’s the faulty eye test? As I stated earlier, even ERA supports Cahill’s work since moving to the bullpen. For all intents and purposes, this seems like a painfully bad knee-jerk reaction to Arizona’s poor record.

Prior to the inception of spring training, I had the Diamondbacks penciled in as the second place team in the NL West. While nobody could have foreseen the meteoric rise of the Giants, and losing Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery is a heavy blow, Arizona just hasn’t been playing good baseball. But besides Cahill’s bad luck, he hasn’t been an active part of it. They won’t be losing him completely, as he’s said that he’ll be willing to go to the minor leagues to work out his problems. These, however, are problems that simply don’t exist.

Cahill’s homers allowed are a slightly elevated. His HR/9 is up, but his homer to fly ball ratio is actually down. This is odd when taken into account that his fly ball percentage is up, and his ground ball percentage is down. Yet he’s also striking out batters at a 23% clip, a career high. One thing that really sticks out is his WHIP, an awful 1.74. Cahill has never been one for a low WHIP mark, but that’s far and away the worst mark of his major league tenure.

So Cahill is a bit all over the place, but keep in mind that these numbers encompass both his starting and relief work. These things have a way of normalizing themselves over time. And maybe Cahill is simply more suited for relief work. Look at Dellin Betances, who has been far and away one of the most dominant relievers in baseball this year. Betances is a failed SP prospect, who suddenly became really freaking good when the Yankees tried him out in the bullpen down at Triple A. Now he’s in the majors and mowing down batters left and right. I’m not trying to say Trevor Cahill could do his best Betances impression if the Arizona front office logjam let him try, but he could find a lot more success than he’s had so far this season.

In fact, that success has already begun. Yet here Trevor Cahill goes down to the minor leagues to fix some problems that probably don’t require a demotion this drastic to fix. JJ Putz, who’s returning from the DL, will replace him in the pen. I’m sure there was a better DFA candidate in there somewhere. But don’t tell that to whoever it is that runs the show out in the desert these days. They’ll probably end up trading a decent pitcher like Cahill for a no-glove, all-bat kind of guy who will help them “score more runs.”

Wait, what do you mean they already traded Tyler Skaggs to Anaheim for Mark Trumbo? Classic Kevin Towers.


For more on sports injuries, check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert.

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