Steve Cishek: Perfect For The Dodgers

It’s not secret the Dodgers needed to and are adding to a depleted pen. They have traded for Corey Knebel, resigned Scott Alexander, Jimmy Nelson, and made a flurry of minor league moves including names like Brandon Morrow.

It’s also known that the Dodgers are trying to replicate the success their World Series counterparts uncovered in their unique bullpen strategy. For those that don’t know, the Rays built their pitching staff around changing arm angles. That way batters’ eye levels had to adjust with every change.

It worked as a team of mostly no names had the 3rd best team ERA of 3.56, largely thanks to a heavily used bullpen with a 3.37 ERA. (Starters had a 3.77).

So now the Dodgers look to repeat the experiment and build a pen not meant to blow away hitters, but to have them constantly behind and adjusting. Which is why we say the Dodgers should not drop big money on signing big name Liam Hendricks, and instead sign veteran reliever Steve Cishek.

Highlights

  • Steve Cishek Breakdown
    • Arm Angle
    • Career Stats
    • His Arsenal
  • Our Offer
  • Conclusion
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Steve Cishek

  • Arm Angle

Here’s a look at Cishek’s release points, versus’s all the righties the Dodgers are definitely keeping for next year.

The Dodgers right now tend to move more left to right than up and down. Most guys average within a few inches of 6ft. Cishek, is almost a submariner averaging a release point just over 4 feet. Incredibly low for the 6’6″ right hander.

It would add a whole new arm slot for Dodgers on the right side. They have about 2 right now. With Cishek, instead of a range of about a foot, it will be a range of about 2 feet in release points. And that’s just from the right side.

It’s also worth noting, he would set up potential closers Jansen and Graterol exceptionally well with their high release points.

  • Career Stats

Cishek will be pitching in his 12th major league season at the age of 34 and 35. He’s exclusively been a bullpen piece appearing in 594 career games. He has a record of 32-37, an ERA of 2.78, 132 saves, a 1.163 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 146. He’s pitched for 6 teams, the bulk of his time with Miami and 8 of his 11 years in the National League so far.

He just had his worst career year in ERA at 5.40 in 20 IP. Before that though his ERA range over 10 years was only 2.01 to 3.58. 8 of the 10 seasons had an ERA in the 2’s. All in all, he’s compiled 12.2 WAR in his career. An average of just over an extra win a year. Not bad for a reliever. Especially when you consider 4 of that WAR came in his last two full seasons (’18 and ’19)

His best season was in 2017 where he split time between Seattle and Tampa Bay. He had 20 forgettable innings in Seattle, but was one of the best reliever in baseball for the Rays. He had a 1.09 ERA in 24+ innings with a 0.811 WHIP. His ERA+ was a whopping 389. He created 1.1 WAR in just those 24 innings. Almost 3 times as much value as he did that year in Seattle (0.4).

2020 was his worst season and statcast doesn’t rate his performance Kindly either. He had a 5.40 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. Statcast says he should’ve given up a below average slash line of .260/.350/.455. That holds up considering the 4 homers he gave up were only solo bombs and he gave up 8 more runs last season.

It was hard to find reasons for the regression but we found a couple possible culprits. He barely threw his fastball in 2020, and it was his most successful pitch in 2019. His sinker also lost a significant amount of vertical movement and got crushed this last year. It was already his worst pitch in 2019. But we’ll talk about that more later.

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It mostly looks like Cishek can still pitch to his above average level. Even at his advanced age, his stuff has hit a floor in velocity for a while. He’s an off speed first pitcher. His fastballs are used as a secondary, put-away pitch now.

  • His Arsenal

Cishek relies on 2 pitches mostly, with two others he historically mixes in every few outings. His sinker and slider are his two dominant options, with the slider recently becoming his number 1 option.

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  • Slider

His slider comes in at about 78 MPH with a spin rate in the mid 2300’s. Batters do not hit it well as they whiff 43% of the time against it. Which is why Cishek probably took the jump to pitching t 51% of the time.

Yet somehow it is about average in vertical and horizontal movement. We think it’s the combination of the decent movement and already low release angle.

  • Sinker

His sinker still averages a low 90 mph. The same as in 2019, 18, and even his elite 2017. The spin rate has also stayed about the same. But the pitch has been hit worse and worse every year since the initial decline in velocity. Yet he still throws it about 45% of the time.

This pitch is single handedly responsible for his awful 2020. Batters hit .395/.494/.789 against it. 15 of the 21 hits he gave up, including all 4 homers, came off of the sinker. And it wasn’t that much better in 2019.

There’s two sides to this coin. It’s either the kryptonite that will end Cishek’s career, or the key to unlocking his greatness from seasons past.

  • 4-Seamer

His 4-seamer was only used about 3% of the time. It averaged around 89 MPH but was untouched in the 7 times he threw it last year. It had a whiff rate of 50% and was used as his putaway pitch for 3 of his 21 strikeouts. Not bad when you consider it was only used 7 total times.

But as we mentioned earlier, it was his best pitch in 2019 when he threw it 17% of the time. Granted his spin rate and velocity ticked down from 2019. A trip to driveline may be able to bring the pitch back to form though. Bringing it back into the arsenal, and maybe even replacing the sinker with it could really help Cishek this next year.

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  • Changeup

His change is used only 1% of the time. He threw it 4 times and gave up once double. It averages about 82 MPH and doesn’t move well. Batters didn’t miss any of the 4 last year. Basically, this pitch isn’t there, and never really has been.

Our Offer

Cishek is by no means Liam Hendricks or Blake Treinen, but he may be the perfect fit for what the Dodger’s front office wants to accomplish this season. His arm angle is unique in this free agent market, his experience is under appreciated, and the market is saturated with arms.

Greg Holland, also 35, signed with the Royals for 1 year, $2.75 million with up to $1.5 million in incentives. Josh Tomlin signed back on for a year at $1 million. So did Scott Alexander. Alex Claudio singed with the Angels for a year at $1.125 million. The only reliever to sign for decent money so far is Trevor May with the Mets for 2 years at $15.5 million.

So we say an aging veteran like Cishek will fit right in with the low end signings right now. We’d love the Dodgers to sign him for a simple 1 year $1.25 million deal.

Let him join the mix for a huge discount. If he produces like he did in his last 2 full season he’ll technically produce about $15 million more worth of WAR.

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