POTD Steve Cishek, CL


Q.  Is Cishek a "strong addition" to the bullpen, as DiPoto characterized it?

A.  If we were talking about somebody other than Jerry DiPoto and the Mariner "closer" -- let's say we were talking about Minnesota and Kyle Gibson.  Then you would look at the below and say,


Season K BB HR FB remark SL remark
2013 9.6 2.8 0.4 Crisp velo, location vicious
2014 11.6 2.9 0.4 " " " "
2015 7.8 4.4 0.7  90 MPH, wild mushier


... and you'd say, Well, sure.  His shoulder is going out.  What's the confusion?   Why are we even talking about this?

Cishek has thrown 5 hard years as a late-inning closer, he's sidearm, and it's time.  Most recent example, Charlie Furbush.  His CMD ratio fell off the table from 5.5 in 2014 to 3.5 in 2015 "for no reason" and next up, we had the shoulder surgery.

But (ssiiiiiighhhhhh) this IS Jerry DiPoto giving money to the Mariner "closer" and we presume that the MRI is clean.  So what's your Explanation B on DiPoto's Plan C.


Q.  What is the REAL reason that Cishek's stats took a swan dive?

A.  Cishek was strawberry jelly on the rubber in April-May, but pretty decent thereafter.  Earlier in the year, you read stuff from Cishek that he needed to change his pitch sequencing, that he needed to stop relying so much on his slider, etc.  And over the period 2013-15, Cishek had indeed been dropping down more and more, falling too much in love with his slider.  Apparently after May, he regained his balance a bit.

Though Cishek's component skills (K, BB, HR, etc) were a tragedy, his COMPONENT-component skills seemed fine:


Season SwStr% (drives K) 1st Pitch Str % (drives BB) Contact % (should reflect K) O Swing % (deception) Zone %
2013 9.7 64 78 27 47
2014 9.5 67 77 31 46
2015 9.2 65 78  27 43


If you're looking for optimism on Cishek, the table above provides plenty.  It's consistent with the idea that (1) the NL booked him, (2) Cishek tried harder and harder to get them fishing, to fall behind in the counts, which didn't happen, and (3) he was pretty much the same pitcher, but going down the wrong sidearm-nibbling track.

Don't underestimate what you see in the ZONE column above.  Quite likely that the NL's eyes just got used to a Cishy-ball.


Q.  Could you use him as a ROOGY?

A.  For some reason, his splits aren't a big deal.  No idea why.  But then, neither were Dan Quisenberry's.  Of course, Quiz had tremendous command and a diving sinker.


Q.  How did his season evolve?

A.  He was blasted for a .300/.400/.500 slash line the first two months.  Then, he righted the ship and was good in June and great in July-August ... WITHOUT a notable improvement in his CMD ratio.  The Cardinals didn't solve any Great Problems of the World when they traded for him; he had a somewhat lousy September for them.

All things considered, you can take his 2015 monthly splits as Just One of Those Things.  Monthly splits fluctuate.  In 2015, Cishek was a 7.5 K, 4.5 BB reliever who was in the bottom third of the league.


Q.  What's the best case here?

A.  Thusly:

HI - Stottlemyre knows something ... and/or ... the American League's eyes aren't used to the Cishy kind of ball.  The 2013-14 Cishek starts strong and is sorta back.  10-15% chance.

MID - Cishek is an 8 K, 3.5 to 4.0 BB reliever, given the fresh environment and state-of-the-art support.  Barely-servicable closer (NOT "fireman").  65-70% chance.

LO - Cishek's arm is going out.  20% chance.

It doesn't take much to close 32 out of 39 games.  A lot of the time you're just throwing Strike One in a game that's already over.  Cishek can still do that.  I don't think Cishek can come into a bases-loaded thing, no way no how.  But, that's what you've got Benoit for.

The "Closer" shtick can be much easier than putting out fires.  Give Cishek a role, give him the data, talk to him sweet, put some lipstick and eye shadow onto his problems, and you might limp to 33 saves.  If the pitch isn't taken over the fence, well, there's a 70% chance that somebody will catch it.


Q.  Who would you rather have close games - Cishek or Wilhelmsen?

A.  Oh, Wilhelmsen.  In a heartbeat.  And I wasn't a Wilhelmsen fan.

Extending that question a bit further, it's CL Wilhelmsen, SU Smith, SP2 Iwakuma and SP5 Elias ranged against CL Cishek, SU Benoit, SP2 Miley and SP5 Karns.  I will quite cheerfully take the Wilhelmsen group for choice.  Neither is the spaghetti-against-the-wall ... Ryne Harper, Jonathon Aro, Evan Scribner, Justin DeFratus, and Anthony Bass my idea of a Pat Gillick Move On the Division.

But, man, Adam Lind to join our MOTO, with the "traffic" now commuting around town in front of them, THAT is another subject.  As far as the bottom half of the inning?  I wish the season were starting tomorrow.

Run Prevention Model, indeed.  Glad that DiPoto didn't do it the way he said.  One 513-run season is enough for any fan's TV career.


Dr D



One other variable to throw into the mix (suggested by a Miami fan site comment). Maybe the switch in catchers in Miami, from one that was good at calling a game and at getting border-line strikes, to Saltalamacchia had something to do with his fall-off. Maybe DiPoto does know something about catcher-pitcher interfacing that eludes us.

If a guy is going to nibble a bit because his velocity is down, and if his pitch sequencing needs improvement, sounds like Ianetta might be able to get some confidence and pitch conviction back into the guy.


It looks like relatively high walks (3.4 BB/9) and relatively high base-hits (.305 career BABIP-against) are built into Cishek's game.  Thus he's what you'd call a high-baserunner reliever (1.23 career WHIP).

That means he must must MUST keep the K% high and HR% low. 

He did this during 2011-2014.  Indeed, during that period Cishek was 9th-lowest among all pitchers with at least 100 IP (9th of 502) in HR/9.

Right behind ... another high-baserunner reliever who relied on high-K and low-HR ...

Yep, Fernando Rodney was 8th in HR/9 for 2011-14.  Cishek walks fewer, but gives up more singles than Rodney.  Either way, they'll be pitching with guys on base. [Cishek was 45th of those 502 in K/9; Rodney 56th.]

As with Rodney, but less dramatically, Cishek went the wrong direction in both K% and HR% in 2015.  Cishek's HR-against was still quite low, but not the extreme-low rate that boosted him considerably in the 2011-14 period.

Cishek also had a dramatic drop in batted balls ending in popups.  I looks to me as if Cishek only induced one popup in 180 batted balls in 2015 (0.06%; compared to career rate of 2.15%).  [In this way, he was not like Rodney, who retained his above-average popup rate but had his HR% skyrocket.]

Cishek can return to his 2011-14 "norm" and be quite good, but he depends very heavily on keeping the ball in the yard. 



I like the way you put that Spec, that if the WHIP is up so must be the DOM and the mistake avoidance.  Without a doubt.  That's the $64,000 question, though, right?  Why the K's fell from 10-11 to 7?

Maybe it's nothing more than the DiPoto principle that relievers are up-and-down ... let's hope.  I got nothing against a white-knuckle reliever who is capable of K'ing his way out of trouble.

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