Coming in to 2013, Andrew Cashner had only six starts in 93 career appearances. He started the season off as a reliever but after six appearances, became a starter in San Diego. He did not disappoint, posting the following numbers.
|As a Starter||165.2||144/41||56||119||3.04||1.12||19||10-9|
It was quite the coming out party for Cashner, who turned 27 in September. Still, he was generally only owned in about half of the leagues out there. I know this because I didn’t ever recommend a player in Dixon’s Picks more than I recommended him (8 starts), meaning he was available in at least half of ESPN leagues in every one of those weeks. Some of that comes from pitching for a small-market team that hasn’t had a lot of success in recent years, but not all. So, let’s take a look at what Mr. Cashner brings to the table.
What I like
I didn’t know the final numbers off the top of my head before doing some research, but I started writing this under the impression that Cashner would basically work out to be the poor man’s Jordan Zimmermann.
Now, being a starter all season and not being shut down with a few weeks to go allowed Zimmermann pitched significantly more innings (213.1) than Cashner (175.1). The Nationals were also a much better team (85 wins) than the Padres (75 wins). For those reasons, total wins and most counted stats did benefit Zimmermann. But take a look at how their averages stack up against each other.
My thesis before looking at those numbers was that Cashner was poor man’s Jordan Zimmermann, at least in 2013. I won’t say that Cashner is actually better than Zimmermann but I will say this. Looking at those numbers, we’re not talking about a very poor man’s Zimmermann, are we?
I like a guy that knows how to pitch to his ballpark. Cashner came in to the 2013 season with 110 strikeouts in 111.1 Major League innings. In 205.1 career Minor League innings, he had 191 strikeouts. Throw all that together, and you get a K.9 rate of better than 8.5 in 316.2 innings.
So, when he needs to, Cashner can pitch for the strikeout. But at Petco Park, you don’t need to pitch for the strikeout. It’s still a very spacious stadium and generally speaking, the ball doesn’t carry there, especially at night. So, if Cashner is anywhere near as good at avoiding walks in 2014 than he was in 2014 you’re probably looking at an ERA below 3.30, possibly close to 3.00 again.
The lack of strikeouts this season don’t really concern me that much. When Cashner’s on, you can pair him up with other pitchers like him and stay on pace with the guys who go after Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, and Yu Darvish types early. Good examples of pairing partners for Cashner are Bronson Arroyo, Bartolo Colon, A.J. Griffin, and yes, Zimmermann to name a few.
What I don’t like
What does concern me is how different Cashner’s home/road splits were. For some odd reason, he pitched way more on the road (18 outings, 96.2 innings) than at home (13 outings, 78.1 innings), but take a look at how different his averages were when he was away from Petco.
Now, the road ERA and WHIP aren’t terrible if you can count on such great home numbers. Heck, even the road H/9 is only slightly worse than what Felix Hernandez’s season total (8.15). The walks and even the better strikeout rate tell me that Cashner has a confidence issue away from Petco.
At Petco, he knows he can challenge the plate, allow contact, and more often than not, record an out. Even in a hitter’s park, the odds are still overwhelmingly with the pitcher, remember that a .300 average means getting out seven out of every ten times you put a ball in play. But Cashner doesn’t seem anywhere near as willing to challenge the strike zone away from home.
So, even though the H/9 on the road wasn’t terrible, and the HR/9 were actually better on the road, they hurt a lot more because he’s walking too many guys. That has to change, even if it means fewer strikeouts.
The (Early) Final Verdict for 2014
I’ve watched an awful lot of games at Petco Park over the years, and it’s just hard to imagine a guy like Cashner struggling there. He knows how to pitch there, and do it well. The walks on the road are troubling, but Cashner’s still a young guy.
He really turned a corner in 2013 in terms of control. Coming into the year, his BB/9 rate was 4.3. In 2013, it was 2.4. That can be seen as an anomaly but for a guy who’s only 27, I’m looking at it more as a guy learning how to pitch and trust his stuff. My best guess is that that will come in 2014, even away from San Diego.
According to Fangraphs he averaged just under 95 mph on his four seam fastball in 2013, so he’s got the stuff to throw it over the plate. I’m guessing he’ll go under the radar in 2014, falling into the late rounds, or even the waiver wire. Unless fantasy players go much earlier than that, Cashner is an absolute low-risk steal.