Trevor Cahill Coasting along in Mediocrity


Trevor Cahill was again unimpressive in his last start on Wednesday night allowing four earned runs on eight hits while walking two and throwing a wild pitch in 6 2/3 innings. He surrendered a leadoff [the game] triple to Dexter Fowler who would eventually score. The first inning run marked the 17th time in his 20 starts that Cahill failed to make it out of the first inning unscathed. His first inning ERA is a god awful 7.65 with 11 extra base hits allowed. Problem #1.

Cahill’s ERA has risen steadily since his season low ERA of 3.08 on June 10th to an unimpressive 3.86 after his last performance. The 24 year old hasn’t won consecutive starts since June 15th and June 20th and his record sits at 8-9 overall. Inconsistent- Problem #2.

So what are we expecting from the 24 year old? Here’s what GM Kevin Towers had to say following the acquisition of Cahill back in December:

“In Trevor’s situation, we’ve acquired a player that’s logged 400 innings over the last two years. He’s nine months older than Jarrod Parker, he’s been an All-Star, with 40 wins, a sinker-ball pitcher, which we think plays well at Chase Field. Proven winner, innings eater, young guy that we think is only going to get better. Heavy sinker with a plus-plus change-up.”

Essentially what Towers is saying there is that we needed a starter that has proven he can win at the major league level and the team wasn’t prepared to wait any longer to see if Parker would pan out based on his potential. Wins now are more valuable than wins in the future when you’re battling for a Division title.

So we are now 101 games into the 2012 season and Cahill has contributed 20 starts and 126 innings to the Diamondbacks producing mostly mediocre numbers. While his strikeouts per nine innings are currently at a career high pace of 6.5 per 9 innings he is also walking batters at a career rate of 3.5 per 9 innings as well. He threw for more than six innings in his last start marking only the second time in his last seven appearances he did so compiling a 3-4 record.

In fact, comparing Cahill’s current season to his 2011 campaign [through his last start against the Rockies] the results are eerily similar. Through July 22nd 2011: 8-9 3.77 ERA, 13 homeruns allowed in 136 innings pitched and through July 25th 2012: 8-9 3.86 ERA 12 homeruns allowed in 126 innings. If history is to repeat itself for Cahill in 2012 then we don’t have a whole lot of success to look forward to in his last two months. His final line in 2011 as an Oakland Athletic was 12-14 4.16 ERA 19 HR allowed in 207 2/3 innings. And that is pitching in a ‘pitcher friendly’ park at the Oakland Coliseum. Chase Field is ranked the 26th best park for pitchers- a far cry from Oakland’s 11th best rating. I don’t know about you but I would not consider that a successful season as a Diamondback and certainly not from a guy Towers and the team acquired to make sure they made another run at the N.L. West title this year.

On the other side of the trade for the Athletics things are looking pretty good. In exchange for Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow, the Dbacks offered up outfielder Colin Cowgill, reliever Ryan Cook and the Diamondbacks 9th overall pick in 2007 Jarrod Parker. Parker had the tag of a kid with a lot of potential at the time of the trade having only pitched in one regular season game last September (six shutout innings btw) and one relief appearance in a playoff game against the Brewers but has been very good in his starting role all season long posting a 3.36 ERA and 7-4 record in 2012. He’s given up one or fewer runs in eleven of his seventeen starts- Cahill has allowed one or fewer in six of his twenty starts. Cook has been even better out of the bullpen taking over the closer role just eight weeks into the season. He’s posted a 1.90 ERA while limiting opponents to a .134 average.

The Dbacks have been able to take advantage of the acquisition of Breslow in that trade by adding a left handed reliever to their bullpen.  He has a 2.76 ERA through 42 innings of work thus far and has been lights out at times for the team.

So as we close out the month of July and the Dbacks are still flirting with a .500 record you would have to think the A’s feel as though they stole one against Towers. However, if Cahill can find a way to regain his form a la 2010 (18-8 2.97 ERA) where he finished 9-5 with a 3.01 ERA in the second half of that season we may be having a different conversation in October.

As of now though, the two positive things he has going for him are unrelated to his successes on the mound: he is young (24) and his contract is very affordable for a #3 starter in the major leagues. The beauty of baseball is that at any point in the season the exact turnaround that we are discussing here can happen and does happen. And that is why we will watch with hopeful eyes that the young right hander can be the starter we all expected when he arrived in the valley before spring training.

Cahill will have his shot at turning it around this evening as he kicks off a three game series against the first place Dodgers with the Dbacks trailing by 4 1/2 games.