St. Louis Cardinals: Can Brett Cecil bounce back in 2018?

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 18: Reliever Brett Cecil
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 18: Reliever Brett Cecil /

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil will be looking to rebound from his disappointing season in 2017.  The Cardinals need the 31-year-old lefty to “bounce back” in 2018 to help stabilize the bull pen.

When Brett Cecil arrived at the St. Louis Cardinals training facility in Jupiter, Florida, he must have wondered if he had walked into the wrong clubhouse.  Gone were familiar faces such as Kevin Sieqrist, Jonathan Broxton,  Zack Duke, Trevor Rosenthal, and Sueng-hwan Oh( also Eugene).   In their place were faces such as Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone, Bud Norris, and Conner Greene.

With the new faces, also came a fresh off-season approach from Brett Cecil.  To combat his traditional slow start of each season, Cecil began throwing a few weeks earlier in his winter workout.  As Cecil told Jenifer Langosch recently: “Just amped it up a little more this year, trying to kick out the soreness, get the kinks out and prepare the mechanics in perfect condition before the season.”

Another new approach by Cecil, will be the watching of video tape of the hitters he faced last year who he struggled against.  After pitching in the American League Central for seven years, Cecil felt like he knew most of the batters and seldom relied on video tape.

But as he told Rick Hummel, of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, that will change this year.  “I’m not one to fill my head with video tape and stats.”  Cecil continued: “But next year, I will be going with that video. Now that I’ve had four or five(at-bats) against some guys, I’ll be able to pick apart what I did wrong or what I did right.  And hopefully improve.”

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Key to Cecil’s rebound will be finding the effectiveness of his curve ball again.  As Langosch reported earlier, Cecil watch lefties hit .382 and slug .618 against his curve last season.

In the previous two seasons, he didn’t allow a left-handed batter an extra base hit off the pitch.  Accordingly, Cecil reduce the usage of the curve ball 45.4% of the pitches he threw in 2016 to just 28% in 2017.

In the end, Brett Cecil’s 2017 was an up and down affair. After a rough start, Cecil settled down from Mid-May until the All-Star break, where he was only scored on one of 22 appearances.  However, after the All= Star break , the rest of the season was a roller coaster ride.

Eventually, Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny would rarely entrust Cecil with a late inning lead, with left-handed hitters batting .347 against him.

Brett Cecil’s final stat line for 2017 was a 3.88 ERA with a 3.26 FIP in 67 innings.  The numbers weren’t a disaster, but not what the Cardinals were hoping to get from him when they signed Cecil to a 4-year, $30.5 million contract.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Brett Cecil are counting on that to change in 2018.

Consequently, the Cardinals will be hoping to have the Cecil from 2013-2105, when had ERAs of 2.82, 2.70, 2.48 respectfully, and  FIPs of 2.88, 2.34, and 2.34. Many of the roles for the Cardinals 2018 bull pen still remained undefined.  However, a “bounce back” year from Brett Cecil would go a long way in shoring up the late inning effectiveness, that was often missing from last year.

Cecil has shown promise this spring that he may be on the right track. Although a small sample size, Cecil has a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings pitched.  He has given up only one home run and has two walks, with a WHIP of .750.

With Cecil’s history, having a ” bounce back” year is not out of the question.  With three years remaining on his contract, the Cardinals are  going to give him every chance to make an impact on the bull pen for 2018.

However, if Brett Cecil struggles again in  2018, the St. Louis Cardinals will have options in their minor league system.  Lefties Austin Gomber, John Brebbia, and Sean Gilmartin will be waiting in Memphis, along with highly regarded right-handed prospect Alex Reyes.

Nevertheless, I’m betting on Brett Cecil to have the “bounce back” year and have a positive impact on the Cardinals 2018 bullpen.

Next: Ten bold predictions for 2018

What do you think Brett Cecil will do in 2018?  Do you expect a “bounce back”? Let us know your thoughts.  Thanks for reading.