San Diego Padres: 4 Reasons Andrew Cashner Will Be a Stud at Petco Park

Louis HamweyAnalyst IIIMarch 8, 2012

San Diego Padres: 4 Reasons Andrew Cashner Will Be a Stud at Petco Park

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    San Diego Padres newest pitching addition Andrew Cashner made headlines this past week, averaging a fastball of 102.2 mph in a spring training game against the Seattle Mariners.

    The feat set off a flurry of new stories and tweets about the 25-year-old the Padres acquired in a deal that sent San Diego’s top prospect, Anthony Rizzo, to the Chicago Cubs.

    While the deal seemed to favor the Cubbies at the time, it now looks like the Pads could walk away from it on top.

    There is no doubting Rizzo’s ability to become one of the league’s top first basemen, as he headed a class of youngsters that made the Padres farm system the best in the league according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

    But, now it appears the acquisition of Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati, the No. 2 first baseman prospect behind Rizzo, will benefit the team in the long run.

    Here are four reasons why Andrew Cashner will be a stud at Petco Park.

Petco Park Plays to His Strengths

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    Cashner was infamous in his minor league days for being an incredibly stingy pitcher when it came to giving up the long ball.

    In 182 innings pitched in the farm system for the Cubs, he surrendered only three home runs, or 0.016 per inning—something that Dayn Perry of CBS Sports remarks as “legendary."

    However, that number jumps up in his major league appearances to 0.138 home runs per inning.

    Respectable, but not great.

    This makes perfect sense given the fact that, in the minors, his fastball is able to blow by hitters. In the majors, players have the bat speed to keep up with the pitching. At the top level, his pitches may blast off the bats and head for the stands if Cashner doesn't have other quality pitches in his repertoire.

    Combine that with Wrigley Field being one of top 15 parks in ceding home runs and it makes sense why Cashner has struggled at the major league level.

    Petco has been described as an oasis for pitchers—what Coors field is to hitters.

    ESPN ranked it as the worst hitter’s park in the league, citing that their 0.775 in home runs over the past five seasons combined is the lowest by a large margin.

    The relatively shallow fences and simple wall design make it difficult for batters to find gaps in the outfield. But, the heavy dense sea air from across the street seems to flatten balls in the middle of their flight.

    At Petco, Cashner could continue to utilize his blazing fastball as his best pitching asset without having to worry too much about giving up home runs.

A Strikeout Pitcher

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    You would assume that, because he throws over 100 mph, Cashner relies on sheer velocity to get batters out rather than pitching to do the same.

    Not exactly the truth when you investigate.

    Data from Brooksbaseball.net shows that in his 10-pitch, sixth inning appearance against Seattle, Cashner grouped all of his pitchers in the upper half of the strike zone. They also had little lateral movement break, all rising at least seven inches from the release point.

    Compare this to the game’s preeminent hard throwing right-hander Justin Verlander and you will see a remarkably similarity of vertical pitch trajectory.

    In fact, Cashner has even more vertical rise than the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

    All of this gives him an above average strikeout ratio.

    In the minors, Cashner averaged 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings—a very good mark for a prospect. What's really encouraging is how we he was able to translate that 8.0 strikeouts per nine into the majors, having the same exact average.

    To put that in perspective, Verlander’s career average only betters Cashner by 0.3 strikeouts. If Cashner had a consistent role in last year’s Cubs season and met his average, he would have ranked 30th in the majors.

    Since the one-two punch of Jake Peavy and Chris Young moved on, the Padres have been in desperate need of a pitcher who can provide strikeouts. Mat Latos looked to be the guy, but he was dealt in the offseason to Cincinnati.

    Cashner looks to be the man to take over the punch-out role.

The Right Attitude

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    Cashner pitched in 53 games his rookie season in 2010, but a strained right rotator cuff kept his  appearances to only seven games the entire 2011 season.

    The Padres took a risk in letting go of their top prospect for a pitcher that, at the age of 25, has already experienced shoulder issues, but it’s keeping in personality with GM Josh Byrnes:

    "There's some risk any time a guy missed a good chunk of a year, but we're comfortable with both the scouting side and the medical stuff,'' Byrnes said. "He has a good chance to be healthy. He's throwing the ball great and feeling good. Even going back to January and the stuff we did, his offseason has been completely normal.''

    However, the risk was minimized by the type of person Cashner is.

    High-velocity pitchers with a taste of big league play are generally as eager as any to get back on the mound as soon as possible. Cashner recognizes the investment the club has made in his future and the fragility of an injured pitcher's career:

    "It's (the injury) over with,'' Cashner said. "It's in the past. I'm not really thinking about it too much. I'm focused on what's going on right now…Right now all my focus is on the bullpen. If another opportunity comes up, it comes up. My goal is to win the seventh or the eighth inning job this year."

    This kind of patience is rare in a pitcher that was once one at the top of the list of Cubs' prospects by Baseball America.

    With the Padres and Cashner both on the same page, he can be worked into the starting rotation in a manner that is in line with his physical development.

    San Diego is not going to be making waves in the league any time soon and Cashner is a star for the future. The fact that he recognizes this is more telling of the kind of character he is more than anything.

Can Bring a New Energy to the Club

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    I have been a Padre fan for as long as I have enjoyed the game of baseball.

    But when I moved to Brooklyn a few years ago from San Diego, it has been hard to keep up with what is happening at Petco.

    The three hour time difference does not help when games finish around 2 AM. Neither does the fact that I am constantly barraged with Yankee talk and everything American League.

    The real problem is that there in nothing in San Diego to get excited about.

    After Tony Gwynn left, the Padres lost their one and only superstar. Sure, guys like Trevor Hoffman and Jake Peavy provided some recognition, but they never carried their weight around the league.

    Even a brief stint by future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux could not do enough to keep intrigue. Adrian Gonzalez was the best shot of recreating the Gwynn glory years, but his move to Boston ended that hope.

    Cashner has real star power in the way he plays the game.

    He may never win an NL Cy Young nor pegged to be a top starter in the league, but sports is about more than winning. His ability to pitch consistently over 100 mph is a novelty and one that can hopefully pack the stands and bring in national attention.

    After all, what do the Pads need more than someone who we can all be excited to watch?

Do You Think Cashner Will Be a Stud?

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    Andrew Cashner has one appearance for the Padres in spring training, but, in that apperance, has already made waves for himself around the league.

    His 10 pitches that averaged over 100 mph had fans taking notice and automatically justified Bryne’s questionable move that brought him to San Diego.

    With his entire career ahead of him, time will only tell whether this was the real deal or nothing more than a unique instance of awesomeness.

    But for Padre fans, it is at least something for us to hang our hopes on.

    Do you think Cashner will be a stud as he continues to develop? If so, are the reasons I stated enough or do you have your own theories? Or was this all just one big show that will fade away?

    As always, leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

     

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