Let me first start by congratulating Andrew Cashner on a ridiculously awesome mullet. It suits him well. I’ve been known to grow out my hair pretty long in a mullet type fashion in the back, but I could never in my wildest dreams make it look as stylishly good as his.
Ever since Cashner came over to the Padres and became a full-time starting pitcher, he has to be one of the unluckiest pitchers when it comes to wins and losses, if not the unluckiest. In 2013 Cashner squeaked over the .500 mark with a 10-9 record off of a 3.09 ERA in 31 games (26 starts), and last year he went just 5-7 in 19 starts despite having a superb 2.55 ERA. Those seasons of mediocre win/loss records despite the sparkling ERA’s were surely attributed to pitching for a Padres team that had the 24th worst run scoring offense in the Majors in 2013 and the absolute worst in 2014.
On Friday night against the Dodgers, Cashner pitched 6 innings of quality baseball where he gave up one unearned run on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 3. However, he was once again unable to come away with one for the W column and was handed a no-decision. Cashner’s ERA improved to 2.89 and his WHIP to 1.27, but his record of 1-7 definitely does not reflect anything resembling what it should for a pitcher with his stats.
But what happened? The Padres offense was supposed to be vastly improved by adding guys in the off-season like Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks, so they must all be flaming out as disappointments, right? Well, not exactly actually. Upton, Myers, and Norris have all been enjoying good seasons, and the Padres are actually 11th in the Majors in run scored and have been the beneficiaries of their home field Petco Park turning into a launching pad of sorts.
When Cashner has taken the hill, his offense has only averaged 2.00 runs per game, and in 6 of his 9 starts, the offense has scored 2 runs or less. For comparison, his teammate James Shields has received at least 3 runs of support in all of his starts for 5.33 runs on average, and other teammate Tyson Ross has received 4.33 runs of support in his starts. So it’s not that he has been pitching for a team with a horrendous offense like in years past, he has just had the misfortune of his offense being powerless specifically in the games that he has started. He has been matched up versus the likes of Max Scherzer, Dallas Keuchel, Jon Lester, and Zack Greinke (twice), but he’s also opposed Brandon McCarthy, Ryan Vogelsong, Rubby De La Rosa, and Daniel Hudson. So the 2.00 runs of support per game are hardly excusable.
With an increase in slider usage from 15.9% last year to 19.9% this year, Cashner is striking out a lot more batters this season with nearly a +2.00 K/9 bump up to 8.68 K/9. The swinging strike rate that Cashner is inducing supports the increase in strikeouts as well, as it is up from 8.0% last year to 9.9% this year, and a large portion of that is from the slider. However, he has been a victim of the weird, inexplicable transformation of Petco Park into a more hitter friendly park that I alluded to earlier. He is allowing 1.29 HR/9 on a 14.3% HR/fly ball rate. That’s not something that is likely to continue as he has been very good at limiting the long ball regardless of where he has pitched (0.75 HR/9 on the road in 2013-14).
I think that Cashner is a good candidate that you may want to try and buy and cash in with him. By all metric systems, Cashner is pitching the best that he ever has since becoming a full-time starting pitcher and the win/loss record is a fluke that the Cashner owner in your league may not realize or just something they are getting tired of dealing with. It’s a very optimistic sign that he is striking out more batters, and with a legitimate reason that he is doing so (the slider). Things will turn around for him soon.
Let’s dive into Friday’s other games in action.