Image credit: James G
Brett Cecil made his season debut today with the Blue Jays, pitching 5 innings, allowing five hits, one walk and two runs (both earned). Squints was demoted to Toronto’s Double A team in Manchester, NH to start the season, and to work on getting his fastball velocity back. And yet, after spending the season in the minors, his fastball still maxes out at only about 91 miles per hour, and only averages about 88, which is absolutely horrid for a Major League pitcher—heck, it’s even not great for a high school player. And that is why I think that if he wants to continue playing in the Bigs, he’ll need to start using and perfecting the un-perfectable pitch—the Knuckleball.
The two pitchers who’ve used knuckleballs as their primary pitches in the last few years are pitchers who struggled and spent a lot of time in the minor leagues before finding success. They are also a couple pitchers whose fastballs are notoriously below average, which is no doubt one of the main reasons for them wanting to add a wacky pitch—a knuckle or screwball—to their repertoire. And that is the reason I think a knuckleball could be greatly beneficial to Brett Cecil. If he really wants to have a successful big league career, I seriously think he should look into working on and perfecting the pitch.
Just looked at what it did for Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey. Wakefield was drafted as a first baseman, but starting working on pitching (and using a knuckleball) after he was told by a scout that he would likely never pass the Double A level as a position player, stating “I just want to be able to say I tried everything I could to make it”. R.A. Dickey started using the knuckler after having very limited success as a “conventional” starter at the Major League level, and would ya look at him now! A 10 and 1 record with a 2.20 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, and 4.74 K/BB in 90 innings this year. Just imagine if Brett Cecil went down to the minors to work on the pitch and put up those kind of numbers next season! Jays fans would love him! Not to mention the pitch puts nearly zero stress on the pitcher’s arm, so he could probably pitch for a very long time.
Now, with all that said, there are also a ton of reasons why he should not start using a knuckleball. For once, Cecil already has issues with home runs and leaving fastballs up in the zone, and hanging a ~70 mile per hour knuckleball up there would be disastrous. He would also need to spend at least a season (most likely more) in the minor leagues to work on the pitch, because you certainly don’t want him to just start using it against Big League batters—especially in the American League East when the Jays are potential contenders this year and next year. He probably would not even be willing to risk missing a seasor or more in the Majors just to work on a pitch that may or may not work out, and most likely wouldn’t work out since it’s an extremely hard pitch to master. All I’m saying is that in a perfect world, he’d be 100 percent willing to try it, and it would work out perfectly and the Blue Jays would win the World Series. But this is no where close to a perfect world, and all we can hope is that Brett Cecil gets some of his velocity back, gets more ground balls and lowers his ERA to somewhere around the 3.60 mark.
With all that being said, I truly love seeing Squints back with the Blue Jays, and wish him the best of luck for this season. He pitched pretty decent today, and hopefully he can continue at that pace.