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Breaking down Chicago White Sox starter Dylan Cease

MLB: JUN 03 Tigers at White Sox Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dylan Cease was arguably the best pitcher in the American League last season pitching to a 2.20 ERA and 2.70 xERA with a strikeout rate of 30.4 percent. This season though he’s taken a massive step back with his xERA going all the way up to 4.47 and his K rate dropping to 25 percent. The main reason for his lack of success this season is the overall effectiveness of his pitches, as well as a significant decrease in whiff and chase rates.

Down below we are going to break down the regression in those pitchers and what the Dodgers hitters should expect on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

Pitch #1: Four seam, 2023 usage rate - 40.8 percent

2023 stats - .246 xBA, .448 xSLG, .362 xwOBA

Average velo - 95.6 MPH - Spin rate - 2,513 RPM - vertical movement - 11.3 inches - horizontal movement - 2.9 inches

The biggest drop off for Cease this season has been the quality of contact against him which is highlighted in his four seamer. The average exit velocity against it has increased 4.5 MPH from last season, which is up to 92.9 MPH and the hard-hit rate is 50.7 percent, a 15.2 percent uptick from 2022. Additionally, the line drive rate on it is 28 percent, 4.9 percent higher than it was last season. Cease never relied on his four seamer to miss bats but the whiff rate also dropped to 19.4 percent, the second worst mark in his career.

Pitch #2: Slider, 2023 usage rate - 39 percent

2023 stats - .234 xBA, .352 xSLG, .299 xwOBA

Average velo - 86.0 MPH - Spin rate - 2,797 RPM - vertical movement - 35.0 inches - horizontal movement - 3.2 inches

Last season, this was Cease’s money pitch, this year not so much. Hitters whiffed at it 43.2 percent of the time in 2022, this season it’s down to 36.5 percent. Additionally, the chase rate has gone from 39.4 percent to 33.9 percent. The put away percentage has also dropped all the way down to 19.4 percent, an 8.4 percent decrease from last season. This is the pitch that makes Cease’s arsenal work because of how dominant it is when it’s right. If he has it on Thursday night then look out as the Dodgers might be in for a long night, if not it’s tough to see Cease lasting into the middle innings.

Pitch #3: Curveball, 2023 usage rate - 16.9 percent

2023 stats - .291 xBA, .468 xSLG, .346 xwOBA

Average velo - 80.0 MPH - Spin rate - 2,628 RPM - vertical movement - 59.3 inches (6.3 inches above average) - horizontal movement - 4.1 inches

Like the slide and four seamer, the metrics on his curve are considerably worse across the board. He is not producing nearly as many whiffs and the put away percentage has dropped drastically. The hard-hit rate has taken a steady increase against it going all the way up to 47.5 percent, the highest of his career. On top of that hitters have been able to work this pitch in the air at a considerably higher rate of 20 percent which is 7.5 percent higher than it was last season.

Didn’t include his changeup which he throws just 3.4 percent of the time.

Key matchup: Freddie Freeman

Freeman somehow continues to get better as the years go onm and this offense seems to go as he goes. He rarely chases and whiffs, two things Cease relies on to get batters out. Against Cease’s two most-used pitches this season, Freeman has a casual combined run value of 19 and xwOBA’s of .494 and .476 respectively. The only red flag is that Freeman does have a whiff rate of 39.7 percent against them but that’s not a major concern for me. I think Freeman has a good day against Cease in picking up two hits with one of them for extra bases.

Prediction - Cease throws five innings, allows four earned runs and strikes out five.