How concerned should Padres fans be about Dylan Cease’s recent struggles?

San Diego really needs Dylan Cease to fix one glaring problem, and soon.
San Diego Padres v Texas Rangers
San Diego Padres v Texas Rangers / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

All things considered, the San Diego Padres have to be thrilled that they were able to pull off their trade for Dylan Cease right as the 2024 season started. The Padres had to give up a lot to get Cease, but he has provided stability in their rotation after losing Blake Snell (among others) with his ability to miss bats and pitch deep into games.

While the strikeouts have remained and many of Cease's peripherals have stayed strong, including his fastball velocity which was a concern given his trends in Chicago, Cease only sports a 4.21 ERA this season. What gives? Well, it goes back to a fundamental problem that he has possessed for most of his career, and that has reared its ugly head lately with the Padres.

Dylan Cease's problems with home runs are costing him in 2024 with Padres

So much about Cease's time with the Padres has been positive. His stuff has looked better overall, he has a career-low walk rate, and the start of his San Diego tenure was dominant. As good as he can look, he has had six starts in his last 13 where he has given up four or more earned runs with some dominant outings mixed in. The commonality in most of those dud starts has been his propensity for giving up hard contact and, specifically, home runs.

This isn't a new issue for Cease, however. Power pitchers can often get punished in a big way when they make a big mistake in the strike zone and Cease is a prime example. In Cease's previous three seasons, he had given up 55 home runs in 526.2 innings of work while struggling to limit hard hits and barrels throughout that period.

Cease's start last Tuesday against Texas was a classic example of this. Despite being up against a Rangers team that was without Corey Seager and is dealing with a host of other injuries, Cease failed to escape the fourth inning while getting tagged for six runs, including a pair of home runs to Nathaniel Lowe and four other extra-base hits. Even in his solid start against the D-backs over the weekend, he allowed two long balls.

What needs to happen is that Cease must re-examine how he employs his fastball and knuckle curve, as those are the pitches that are getting hit the hardest. Perhaps he needs to just sequence his pitches better or throw a few more pitches out of the zone to change hitters' expectations a bit. Regardless of the actual adjustment, something needs to change because hitters are clearly getting too clean of a look at his offering.

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