Steve Cishek: High-Leverage Reliever?By
The Miami Marlins went out and spent big bucks this offseason on a closer. They wanted a proven pitcher to man the situations of the 9th inning. They spent $27M on free agent reliever Heath Bell to make sure they got what they wanted.
Whether or not you think the money was a waste or if you think it was a good deal, the fact of the matter is that the 9th inning is not the only time high-leverage situations come about. There has to be someone other than the closer to pitch in these high-leverage situations, especially if the closer is un-wisely used only for the 9th inning.
I get that a team would want someone with experience and more than, say, 59 career innings at the top level to be their closer and pitch in high-leverage situations. However, I believe the Marlins may have another high-leverage man and his name is Steve Cishek. Only problem is that he only has 59 career innings of data under his belt.
There is not a lot of Major League data on Cishek. All we have to go by are the 59 career innings he has in the Bigs, which is a small sample size, but he has been very effective in those 59 innings.
With a 2.44 ERA, 2.45 FIP, and 3.17 xFIP, he has actually been one of the better relievers in the league since his debut. He strikes out nearly a batter an inning and has induced 56% ground balls while allowing only one homerun in those 59 innings. He has been worth 1.1 fWAR over those 59 innings. Last season he was one of only 19 National League pitchers with at least 1.0 fWAR.
His walk rate of 3.05 BB/9 is also pretty good but it is even better when you realize that he has been called to intentionally walk seven of the 20 batters that received a free pass from him in those 59 innings. Take those out of the equation and his BB/9 is only 1.98.
Cishek works mainly with a Sinker and Slider combination but also mixes in a 4-Seam Fastball and Change-Up. He relies heavily on his sinker that he can throw in the low-to-mid-90s, throwing it nearly 61% of the time. It is also his most often hit offering with only a 7.06% whiff rate but it has produced the weakest contact and a 2.31 GB/FB ratio. He will use the pitch in any count and against any batter.
Cishek’s slider is the pitch he uses second most often and he has a 16.73% whiff rate and a 2.08 GB/FB rate with the pitch. He uses it mainly against right-handed batters. Take a look at his pitch selection and location to right-handed batters:
The pitch he uses most often to get left-handed batters out is his change-up. It has the least amount of data but it has been the pitch that has received the highest whiff rate at a whopping at 19.3% and it produced a 3.0 GB/FB ratio and it works perfectly into his down-and-away approach against left-handers. Take a look at his pitch f/x chart against them:
Cishek also throws a four-seam fastball that, as you can see from the graphs, he uses to elevate the hitter’s eye level. This 4-seamer has the same velocity as the sinker and gets more whiffs but induces less ground balls with an even GB/FB ratio.
Let me make it clear that he is not a ROOGY. He shows no platoon splits and gets left-handed batters out just as effectively as right-handed batters with a .207 average against left-handers and a .209 against right-handers.
The data is small, maybe too small to come to a foregone conclusion, but I believe Cishek should be used in high-leverage situations. With his approach, stuff, and repertoire I dare say he may be the best reliever in the Miami Marlins bullpen.