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Andrew Cashner’s remarkable turnaround from last year

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After a forgettable 2018 in his first year with the Orioles, right-handed starter Andrew Cashner has managed quite an improvement as we head to the middle third of the season.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When the Orioles signed Andrew Cashner — a little over a year ago on February 15, 2018 —they were getting a veteran pitcher with a 3.80 career ERA and 1.31 WHIP at the time. But his first year in Baltimore turned out to be underwhelming.

In 2018, he piled up 15 losses and only four wins while logging a 5.29 ERA and 1.58 WHIP with 65 walks and 99 strikeouts in 153 innings. Not the kind of results one would hope for from a two-year, $16 million investment.

Important to note, his deal also includes a $10 million third-year team option that vests automatically if Cashner hits 340 innings pitched between 2018-2019, according to Baseball Reference.

If you add up the number of innings the right-hander threw last year, 153, and add it to ESPN’s projected innings pitched for 2019, 171.1, he would only tally 324.1. He would need to pitch 187 innings this year for him to get locked into a third year with the O’s. And that’s assuming he doesn’t get traded at any point this summer.

Speaking of which, a story dropped at the end of last week on Sports Illustrated — originally reported by The Athletic — about Cashner’s opposition to a of trade out of Baltimore. A somewhat surprising sentiment, considering the competitive state of the team, the long road ahead and the fact that Cashner is a 32-year-old veteran. While he expresses fondness for fellow Oriole players and coaches in the piece, Cashner leaves some wiggle room regarding a future trade.

Believe it or not, the big righty has been one of the Orioles’ best starting pitchers for the first third of the season. Not all of his numbers in 2019 are incredible, but when you compare them to his stats last year you can see the improvement.

Despite a 4.55 ERA with a 4.72 FIP, Cashner is 5-2 on the year. As Drew Bonifant detailed recently, Cashner has been getting some ridiculous run support from the Orioles lineup this year. At the same time he’s allowing home runs at the exact same rate as 2018 (1.5 HR/9) when he ultimately gave up 25 in 153 innings.

On the plus side, he’s lowered his WHIP from 1.58 last year to 1.33 this year, in part because he’s walking 0.8 fewer batters this year versus last. The right-hander has also upped his SO/9 to 7.3. It hasn’t been that high since 2016 when he pitched for the Marlins (7.7). His first year in Baltimore his SO/9 was 5.8 and the year before that — his strong 2017 campaign with Texas, it was 4.6.

Five of Cashner’s 11 starts this year have been quality. In eight of his 11 starts, he’s pitched at least five innings and allowed three runs or less. He overall record is mostly marred by three bad starts: home opener versus the Yankees, 6 ER in 4 IP; at the White Sox, 5 R (4 ER) in 4 IP; and at the Rockies, 5 ER in 5 IP.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable improvements has come with Cashner’s fastball velocity. He’s able to maintain it deep into the game and even reach back for an extra mph or two when he needs it. That’s something Orioles fans did not see last year.

Read into it what you will, but this recent turnaround has come under the tutelage of new pitching coach Doug Brocail, who held the same role while Cashner was a starter for the Rangers in 2017. That year, he went 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 0.8 HR/9 in 166.2 innings.

And as far as intangibles are concerned, one thing Cashner has always been is a good teammate. Players have raved about his openness and leadership qualities since he signed with Baltimore. There’s too many times to remember when a teammate or coach has complimented Cash.

When minor league pitcher Cody Sedlock was recently asked what player in the O’s clubhouse he’d like to emulate, he answered Andrew Cashner, because of his willingness to mentor young players.

Those are the types of qualities you figure Brandon Hyde values in an inexperienced clubhouse like the one he’s got. There has to be some kind of veteran presence around to lead this roster full of young players. But how do Mike Elias and Sig Meidel reconcile that with Cashner’s potential trade value?

Stats retrieved from Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, MLB and ESPN.