Dynasty Player Debates: Cease vs Strider

·6 min read

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With the MLB trade deadline past us, some of our dynasty leagues could be closing in on theirs as well. I know that a couple of my leagues are at the end of August so I thought it would be a good time for some dynasty player debates. So a quick rundown of how this works: I put two players together that are similar and take a deeper dive into each's profile and stats to see which player I would prefer. Off to our first battle, right-handers Dylan Cease and Spencer Strider!

Dylan Cease - RHP - White Sox - 26 years old

2022 stats: 22 G, 122 2/3 IP, 1.98 ERA, 53 BB, 166 SO

Spencer Strider - RHP - Braves - 23 years old

2022 stats: 24 G (13 starts), 89 2/3 IP, 3.11 ERA, 34 BB, 138 SO

Current Season Assessment

Cease has been in the majors for four seasons, but this year has been his coming-out party. The 26-year-old has turned into an outright fantasy ace (but not an All-Star apparently) with his microscopic 1.98 ERA which sits third in the majors right behind the ageless wonder Justin Verlander and Sandy Alcantara. Cease has three pitches (fastball, slider, and curveball) but it is the slider that is doing the majority of the work here. He uses it 42% of the time and batters just cannot catch up to it. They are hitting (who are we kidding, they are not hitting this thing) .120/.174/.162 with a mind-blowing 42% strikeout rate.

Spencer strode into Atlanta's rotation at the end of May and never looked back. The 23-year-old doesn't have the same variety of pitches but he only needs a fastball and slider combo to be a dominant starter. Since moving into the rotation, the righty has a 3.44 ERA and 101 strikeouts to 23 walks. He has either been elite or a dud. Out of the 13 games as a starter, he has given up more than five runs thrice but had four games with more than 10 strikeouts.

While Cease has performed better than Strider this season, there are some signs in Cease's profile that have me concerned. While his HR/FB ratio has decreased every year he has been in the majors, it decreased dramatically from 11% to 8% this year. Is it skill improvement, the different ball, or just plain ol' luck? Another factor giving me pause is how lucky he is with men on base. His LOB% is sitting at 81% at the time of this post, which is the fifth highest in the league. However, the White Sox sit 24th in the league in outs above average (OAA) at -12 OOA. Strider's HR/FB ratio is more in line with his minor league numbers and LOB% is closer to league average.

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Deeper Dive into Pitching Arsenal

When it comes to evaluating pitching, I always like to take a look at Eno Sarris' Pitching+ rankings. If you haven't read about this particular stat, I would advise you to give this article a glance. Cease and Strider's numbers are very close but Strider takes the victory here. Based on the latest update, Strider's 136.1 Stuff+ number leads all starters and his Location+ and overall Pitching+ are all above league average. Cease's 123.3 Stuff+ is elite but his 98.1 Location+ is pretty poor. Cease's lack of command has been an issue ever since he was a prospect so when his Stuff starts to fade later in his career, it could be a runs explosion.

Examining Pitching Approaches

When digging into a pitcher's approach, I turn to Pitcher List's phenomenal player pages. They are filled with all the stats you typically look at and some you might not. I like to look at the Approach section of the page to help me “visualize” what a pitcher's approach is because sadly, I don't have the time to watch every pitchers start.

This season, Cease has been throwing his pitches more to the glove side (gLoc%) and lower in the zone (loLoc%), so down and away to right-handed batters. Righties are hitting .111/.224/.145 with a 44 K% and average launch angle of 1.4 degrees. So even when they do make contact, it is basically on the ground. If he is able to continue to locate his pitches year to year, watch out. Strider's approach is more difficult to analyze since we only have one year of data. However, we can compare him to the MLB average. Strider loves to throw his four-seam high in the zone. His 37 hiLoc% is six percentage points above league average and batters are slashing .206/.229/.235 with a 49% strikeout rate. Just as with Cease, if he is able to continue doing this, the sky's the limit. However, his limited pitching arsenal makes it difficult as he has fewer pitches to rely on per start.

Looking Down the Road

The American League Central has been quite a mess for the last couple of seasons. The Tigers and Royals have based their rebuilds mainly on pitching. Pitching is the “most expensive” asset in free agency and is difficult to trade for, so I get the intention. However, when was the last time a team managed to pull that strategy off? Maybe the ‘90s Braves? Both teams have started to draft more position players but their window of contention is still a few years away. The Twins and the Guardians are by far the White Sox's more difficult opponents but they have their flaws as well.

Heading over to the National League East, things are more difficult for our second challenger, Strider. The Nationals just traded the face of the franchise and while I like what they got back, they are many years away from contending. The Marlins have been a pitching factory but when was the last great homegrown Marlins hitter? You have to go all the way back to the Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna days. The Phillies and Mets are by far Strider's more difficult opponents in the division and are poised to be a threat for the next few seasons.

Even though Strider pitches in the more difficult division, I'm going to give him a narrow victory. Cease's luck stats (HR/FB% and LOB%) have me believing that this is his best season and his lack of command has always scared me away. Strider has fewer pitches but is able to get the job done. It also doesn't hurt that Strider is also three years younger.