New York Yankees‘ fans have had a love-hate relationship with Luis Cessa. Let’s be sincere: it has mostly been hate. But they should realize that this is a pitcher with weapons to succeed, and one that improved as 2019 went on.
With 4.11, Cessa had the best ERA of his career last season, and while the FIP didn’t quite reflect a dominant hurler (4.87,) he also had improvements in his strikeout rate.
In 2019, Cessa struck out 8.33 batters per each nine innings, an improvement over his previous career high of 7.86. He had a healthy 12.7 swinging-strike percentage, also a career-best.
Overall, the Yankees’ reliever lowered his fastball usage from 41.6 percent in 2018 to 34.1 percent in 2019, and increased his slider usage from 41.2 to 49.9 percent. The reason behind this is that his fastball isn’t anything special (-4.8 in Fangraphs’ pitch value) and the slider is, actually, very good (+5.1.)
The Yankees want him to use his slider more
The shift in pitch usage began well into last season, and it shows in his half splits. Prior to the All-Star break, Cessa had a 4.54 ERA. After that date, he put a 3.66 ERA. His wOBA went down from .335 to .295.
Cessa had a very good showing in the postseason and is, actually, a dark horse candidate to have a much-improved 2020 season, if there is one. He seems like he has come a long way from his early-career days, and was having a terrific spring training before play was halted.
The great thing about the New York Yankees’ righty is that he can fill a variety of roles. He could be stretched out to start if needed, he can be a very valuable two or three-inning reliever, and he can also be a regular, more traditional bullpen piece.
In the abbreviated spring training, the reliever had a 2.89 ERA, with 13 strikeous and only one walk in 9.1 innings. He could be in for a very good year. Yankees’ fans, give him a break.