Andrew Cashner is healthy. That's the lead to his story as May gives way to June. After missing all but 12 games of the 2011 season with an ailing rotator cuff, Cashner is launching fastballs that average 98.7 miles per hour according to FanGraphs.com. Unfortunately for Cashner, his pitching results two months into the season are below average, despite a promising strikeout ratio of 9.6 per nine innings.
Mat Latos comes to mind. Another righty with a big arm, Latos had a 4.62 ERA as a rookie who made 10 starts. Bud Black and Darren Balsley drew on those innings to teach Latos a few lessons and saw the payoff in 2010 when Latos went 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA. Latos, however, was 21 years old in 2009; Cashner will be 26 in three months-plus. He is two years removed from appearing in 53 games, as a rookie with the Cubs.
So many powerful throwers gained in accuracy and boldness after joining the Padres in the Petco Era that I figured Cashner could do the same. Mujica Redux, if you will. Alas, his walk ratio has risen to 5.8 per nine innings. That's distressing.
Cashner's penchant for registering triple digits on the radar gun creates buzz among the press and fans. That's something for a Padres team that lacks sizzle. Sports Illustrated saw fit to devote about 1,000 words to Cashner this week when he returned to Chicago to face the Cubs. I disagreed with the article's contention that Cashner "is pitching well." Even before he gave up a tying run on Wednesday, both the numbers and the eyes said Cashner was pitching not well. Adjusted for ballparks and league performances, the righty's 3.68 ERA is worse than average. I don't profess to know the inner workings of Win Probability Added (WPA). It's a statistic that attempts to measure how a player affects his team's win expectancy. I've found WPA correlated fairly well with bullpen performances of Padres teams that I covered as a beat writer. Cashner's WPA is worse than average, according to both FanGraphs (-.94) and baseball-reference.com (-.8). For what it's worth, the Pink Pony Scouts Chat in late March raised some concerns about Cashner's straightish fastball and unrefined slider.
Some Padres fans fret that Cashner will not pan out. They wonder if the club botched the trade that brought him here for Anthony Rizzo. On Wednesday, one of the Tweeps declared the swap "an unmitigated disaster."
There's ample opportunity, however, for Cashner to transform C-minus work into gold-star results. Balsley rates the righty a "good athlete" who can absorb and apply lessons. Cashner threw all of 14.2 innings last year. Even someone who stands 6-foot-6 should be allowed to take baby steps.