Padres Editorial: 3 Up: Andrew Cashner Should Be Opening Day Starter


It is just over two months until Opening Day. The San Diego Padres will be taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine on the afternoon of Monday, April 6. Clayton Kershaw is a lock to be on the bump for the Dodgers. But which Padres hurler is the best choice to face him? Andrew Cashner? Tyson Ross? Or someone else? Who should be the Padres Opening Day starter?

Answer: Andrew Cashner. No question. And here’s why:

  • Cashner is a fierce competitor. Dude is a bulldog. He craves winning like I crave Bronx Pizza. His competitiveness comes through in everything he does. He takes his hitting, fielding, and baserunning as seriously as he does his pitching. In fact, he attempted to bunt for a base hit at a higher rate than any other player in baseball last year. The Padres used him as a pinch runner, a pinch hitter, and even put him in left field for a batter last year. And in every situation, Cashner is a ballplayer. This is the kind of mentality you want from your Opening Day starter, from your staff ace. That kind of aggressiveness and competitiveness sets the standard for the team. Cashner is a leader.
  • He’s been there before. Cashner was the Opening Day Starter for the Padres last year. He’s used to facing other teams’ ace. He already has the mentality that he’s the ace of the Padres’ pitching staff, and in order for anyone else to take that position away from him, they’re going to have to earn it. Ross had a good year in 2014, certainly. But his ERA was higher than Cashner’s, he walks more guys, and he doesn’t pitch as deep into games. In order to take over the role as the ace of the staff, he’s either going to have to put up better numbers than Cashner or become a leader in the clubhouse and on the field the same way that Cashner is. Until he does that, he’s a fine number two pitcher.
  • Efficiency. A year or two ago, Cashner decided to focus on putting the ball in the strike zone rather than trying to throw the ball past everyone. Several things happened. First, his strikeout rate dropped significantly. Second, his walk rate dropped significantly. Third, he was able to pitch deeper into games. Fourth, his ERA dropped from 4.27 to 3.09 to 2.55.

It’s true that Cashner has a history of injuries. But Cashner is as smart as he is competitive. He has come back from his injuries with new pitching strategies. Between 2012 and 2013, he significantly reduced his reliance on his blazing four-seam fastball, adding more two-seamers, a pitch that puts less stress on the arm and is easier to throw for location. He also took some oomph off the higher-speed pitch. In his first few years with the Cubs, it wasn’t uncommon for Cashner to hit triple digits with his four-seam fastball, and in 2012, he averaged nearly 98 mph on the offering. In early 2014, the average velocity on the four-seamer was 94.

More from Padres News

And after his second injury last year, he came back with a few extra four-seamers, which he combined with an increase in curveballs, which are thrown in the same plane as the four-seamers. The result? The pitches start off looking the same, then one stays up while the other drops off the table. More strikes, more groundballs and popups. And shorter innings.

Cashner’s average pitches per batter faced have dropped from 4.04 in 2012 to 3.80 in 2013 to 3.55 last year. As a result, his pitches per inning have dropped from 17.1 to 15.4 to 14.8 over the same span. That means that now he’s hitting 100 pitches with two outs in the seventh inning instead of before the sixth inning is over. Aces pitch deep in games.

Bottom line. Cashner is the ace of the staff until someone else proves they can pitch as effectively, as deeply into games, and with as much fiery leadership as Cashner does. So far, no one has.

Next:'s Jim Duquette Says Padres Won The Off-Season

More from Friars on Base