Steve Cishek by the Seashore | The Process Report

Steve Cishek by the Seashore

The pre-trade deadline shopping spree for the Rays continues with the flipping of Erasmo Ramirez for Steve Cishek. Being the Rays, mommy’s credit card doesn’t play at Von Maur, but they can still isolate needs with the goal of plugging up where they can. With that in mind Cishek represents a better solution for the same role as Sergio Romo. The team can carry both for now, but eventually they will want to pick one or the other. Collette covered Romo so let’s now dig in on the newest Tampa Bay Ray.

Looking at his balls in play over the last two years you can see a couple of notable changes. He has done a much better job of limiting hard contact in the second half of the sample sustaining dramatically lower exit velocity compared to last year. Additionally, he saw a recent spike of launch angle elevation, but has beared down of late to post even lower trajectories. As a sinker/slider guy he wants to keep the ball on the ground. With over 60% of his balls in play burning worms you can see that he is doing exactly that.

Converting those figures above into expected and actual production you can see that he has gotten great actual results of late after a fairly linear increase over the first two-thirds of the sample. His expected results do not show quite as well, and indicate he is something like a league average pitcher. It is possible that his groundball-getting ways help him to over-perform expectations as he can get two outs on one swing more often than most pitchers. It’s merely a hypothesis, but if Cishek can reasonably expect to be more like the red line then he’s a difference making reliever. If he reverts to expectations then he is much less likely to be a real contributor.

A higher propensity for keeping the ball out of the air usually comes with a cost. Cishek has had to trade the very strong strikeout results he used to garner in order to make this transformation, which has also led to a slightly better walk rate. All else equal you would prefer to have the strikeouts, but is is also worth mentioning that he has battled some injury concerns over the last couple of years. Ideal and real rarely meet so while the former profile might be more enticing, the current version may allow him to stay effective longer into a season.

(Please forgive the mislabeled axis above. xwOBA* should read twOBA*)

When we consider all plate appearances you can see that he has mostly been a better than average pitcher by either metric. His most recent term shows him underperforming expectations, but that is coming on the heels of a nearly identical gap in the other direction. Part of this is most likely due to his recent pickup in walk rate. The Rays may be able to mitigate this aspect by having him focus more on facing righties and shielding him from lefties. The team is currently carrying the recently acquired Dan Jennings, but also Adam Kolarek. The Rays played most of the season with as many multi-inning relievers as possible, but it looks like they are starting to acquire as many specialists as possible hoping to sort out who can stay and who has to go.

Anything below 10 degrees is a likely ground ball, and you can see that Cishek does a fantastic job of generating these downward diving balls in play. He also get some weak fly balls, but in between you can see that he will give up some hits. The homers were mostly all deserved, and he probably should have had a couple more added in. I think Cishek is going to be a useful pitcher, but he isn’t the kind of shutdown reliever that folks have been clamoring for. Alex Colome looked like he could be that guy for a while, but until he gets back to dominating then it makes sense for the Rays to bring in as many other helpers as possible. If used correctly Cishek can be exactly that type of guy and a real nightmare for opposition righties.

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