In an alternate universe, Steven R. Cishek successfully closed the last two games in which he blew, and everything was fine. And by blew I don’t mean blew as in he blew, I mean blew as in a save was blown. You know what else blew? Getting swept by the Angels who are currently 16-21, the inverse of the Mariners’ record.
In a second parallel universe, Steve Cishek is an upbeat, personable waiter who works hard at his Denny’s day job to make ends meet. Fortunately for just about everyone, the Mariners do not currently have a Denny’s waiter as their closer, although that’s not far off from a former bartender who spent five years out of baseball. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Tom Wilhelmsen.)
In the former, more relevant alternate universe, Steve Cishek received two saves for the pair of games and the Mariners’ record stood at 23-14. People were happy with Steve Cishek and Steve Cishek was happy with people. Cishek also had no idea that there was a clone of him a parallel universe away, taking someone’s order for a chicken fried steak. Who orders chicken fried steak at Denny’s? Gross people. I want to meet all of the people who have ever ordered chicken fried steak at IHOP or Denny’s.
Sorry. Inhale, exhale. Okay: Cishek.
The thing is, Cishek really didn’t pitch that poorly either night. On Friday, Cishek let three runners on and Cron gorked a ball into the Bermuda triangle of Marte, Martin, and Aoki. Speaking of Aoki, he missed second base on a Robinson Cano double that would have scored him from first base. Aoki never scored that inning. This doesn’t explain away Cishek’s subpar outing, but it does help to contextualize it.
Saturday night, Cishek beaned Calhoun and Trout singled to left. What followed was Albert Pujols, hitting a meager .197/.268/.380 on the year, absolutely destroying a 1-1 fastball in dramatic fashion.
Here is where Steve Cishek was supposed to pitch.
Here is where Steve Cishek wasn’t supposed to pitch.
Cishek didn’t need to look to know it was loooooooong gone.
It wasn’t as simple as leaving one pitch up where his catcher didn’t want it, but in a way, it was!
Coming into the series, Cishek sported a 0.98 ERA, 2.91 FIP, and 3.12 xFIP. He also had a 10.80 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, and an extremely low .195 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play).
Currently, Cishek owns a 3.10 ERA, 3.91 FIP, and 3.69 xFIP. He now has a 10.18 K/9, 3.10 BB/9, and a closer-to-normal-but-still-abnormal.240 BABIP. A couple poor games can do that to you.
Cishek was “due” for a game in which some of his stats regressed closer to the mean. At least… eventually.. (I hate using the word “due” when discussing statistics, because as many of you may know, that thought is a fallacy, commonly known as the gambler’s fallacy.) Up until the Angels series, his LOB% (Left on Base Percentage) was 100%. You can’t expect any pitcher to strand 100% of runners on base. An average percentage is around 70%, depending on the season. This, in conjunction with his BABIP (.195) told us that Cishek at some point was going to have to come back down to earth. Unfortunately, those games came in two consecutive games against the lowly Angels.
On the season, Cishek’s numbers aren’t that far off from his 2013-2014 numbers when he was one of the better closers in the league. His groundball rate is down, and he’s giving up the gopher ball at a relatively high rate, but with a higher sample of games those rates may normalize.
Cishek has also struggled against lefties more this year than his career rates. What is the cause? (I ask this, stroking my chin and gazing up at the ceiling, all while contemplating the meaning of life, and Steve Cishek’s splits.)
My best guesses?
- Sample size, variance, and sequencing
- His changeup (exclusively thrown to lefties) has gotten worse
- Fatigue, from pitching the most innings of any M’s reliever
The answer is likely aliens.
I feel good about Steve Cishek being our closer for the time being. Closer is an arbitrary role in which a pitcher gets to partake in one of the highest leverage situations in the game. Cishek is probably the most capable reliever outside of maybe Zych to fill the role of closer. Shoot, throw Nick Vincent’s name in the hat just for shits. I’m not sure how progressive Servais is in terms of how he utilizes and categorizes his bullpen, but having Zych and Cishek pitching in the most important spots is all I can ask for as a fan/armchair GM. Thus far, it seems as if that’s been the case.
Upon the return of Joaquin Benoit, which should be very soon, Cishek should benefit from a smaller workload. Similarly, we can forecast Ryan Cook, Charlie Furbush, and Tony Zych returning to the bullpen in June, maybe, and this will bolster a ‘pen that is already faring quite well.
Joel Peralta, Steve Johnson, and Mayckol Guiape have all been rather solid. Given what I expected of them, they’ve been more than solid! However, over an entire season, I don’t feel awesome about them being featured in the bullpen. Relievers are somewhat unpredictable and notoriously volatile. Maybe they will all be unpredictably awesome. Or unpredictably abysmal! That being said, I would feel oodles better if some of the better names currently on the disabled list came back to replace them.
It’s funny how public opinion of a player can change so drastically. Our fans certainly don’t hate Cishek, but you can bet some don’t love Cishek! Losing isn’t easy, and losing two games in a row when you were in to close them both with a lead isn’t great for the psyche.
Steve Cishek is going to be okay. I said it in the title! Maybe he’ll be better than okay. Or worse than okay. It depends on your subjective definition of okay. We’ve covered all of the options! But Cishek is right, we will be fine.