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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Should We Be Worried about Tony Cingrani?

Photo Credit: Lassenpkt
Photo Credit: Lassenpkt

At 12:35PM EST, Tony Cingrani will be taking the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He comes into the game with a 3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts over 22.1 innings. These points aren’t all that interesting. What will be interesting is to see if Cingrani continues to repeat what he’s been doing this season. Despite his current shiny numbers, the lefty is showing some signs that may make owners uncomfortable. If there is enough reason to worry, is that enough reason to sell high?

You see, with each passing start, Cingrani’s walks have risen, while the strikeouts have sunk. Last season, he posted a 10.2 BB% (3.70 BB/9). You could say that isn’t terrible, but pretty poor. His current BB% ratio is 14.3% (5.24 BB/9). You could go ahead and scream that this is downright terrible. It is also safe to assume that his zone (43%) and first pitch strike percentages (51.7%) are both down significantly from 2013, and are below league average. They are. Last year, Cingrani’s bread was buttered by his fastball. He made it work. And it worked well. But so far, he is getting almost 10% less first pitch strikes with the fastball as compared to 2013. He has started a hitter off with a heater about 73% of the time. That helps explain, at least somewhat, the increase in walk rate, as well as the decrease in zone percentage and first pitch strikes.

Besides missing the zone more with the fourseamer, it also hasn’t been producing the same results:

Year MPH Whiff% Usage% Swing%
2012 (5 IP) 92.73 13.98 92.08 46.24
2013 92.80 11.63 81.89 47.43
2014 91.75 8.99 72.97 40.29

Losing a tick of velocity is something we obviously don’t want to see. The whiff rate is still above league average, but dropping, and when we peak into the rest of his arsenal, the loss of fastball quality could become problematic.

Year Slider Usage% Changeup Usage%
2013 5.67 7.01
2014 13.39 13.12



Year Slider Whiff% Changeup Whiff%
2013 15.46 3.33
2014 15.69 8.00



Year Slider Swing% Changeup Swing%
2013 37.11 27.50
2014 29.41 40.00



If you wanted to blame Cingrani’s lack of control and walks on the increased usage of his secondary pitches, you may go ahead now. He is throwing more balls with both the slider and change compared to last season, but the same can be said for his fastball. It seems to be an across the board issue. So we can’t just blame it on the breaking and offspeed stuff.

The knock on the southpaw has been his lack of quality secondary pitches. Still, the up in usage shows that he’s at least trying. For the second year in a row, the slider is coming in at a league average whiff rate, but it is a pitch that has gotten him some groundballs. Although the swing percentage has decreased for the slider, the opposite is occurring for the changeup. Unfortunately, the change is still well below league average in terms of whiffs. It is getting more grounders than it did last season, however. Overall, his swinging strike rate is now hovering at around league average.

Year SwStr% K%
2013 9.9% 28.6%
2014 8.7% 25.3%

The swing and miss stuff may be declining, but Cingrani is at least winning the battled ball battle. He has a 16.7 IFFB% and has cut down on the homeruns allowed. Those will be two big parts of his game if he wants continued success.

2012 1.75 0.0% 63.6% 36.4% 0.0% 25.0%
2013 0.77 21.0% 34.3% 44.8% 13.5% 12.6%
2014 0.88 16.7% 38.9% 44.4% 16.7% 8.3%
Total 0.81 19.5% 36.1% 44.4% 13.7% 12.2%

Sample size, sample size, sample size. That really is the problem, isn’t it? There have been positives and negatives so far to Cingrani’s game. He is trying to become more than just a one pitch pitcher. However, the lack of control is worrisome and the fastball doesn’t seem to be as elite as last season. There is no obvious answer this early in the game, but I was wary of Cingrani prior to the season, and this doesn’t make me feel any better about him going forward. A rival may look at a young strikeout pitcher with upside and buy high. And I would be more than willing to sell if that were the case. But who knows, I may change my mind starting at 12:35.

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  1. BW
    April 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

    I am in a 11-team mixed traditional 5×5 roto league. I have some excess SPs, including Cingrani, whereas I need help at middle infield (starting Kolten Wong, best available on waivers are probably Espinosa, Semien, Ackley, Escobar). I’m thinking of offering Cingrani for Bogaerts, and the Bogaerts owner has indicated he would probably do this. Is that fair value? Should I pull the trigger?

  2. BW
    April 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

    PS – Forgot to say thanks for this article & for considering my question! Cingrani really is a puzzle but the walks are just worrisome and I’d rather make him someone else’s headache…

    • April 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Thanks for reading. I like Bogaerts, but it may take another season before that power develops. He doesn’t have great speed, so I’m not sure if you can except more than 5-8 stolen bases. He may have more upside right now in an OBP league. You may also want to determine your team needs before making such a move.

      I would definitely shop around, especially if Cingrani is your weakest pitcher. Some guys who have more roto friendly games are Dozier and Desmond, if you can take the hit at batting average. You may even consider taking a chance on Jose Reyes and his health. Or try to get a number of pieces.

      Basically, I would first aim higher. Cingrani has put together a good start today. His overall numbers right now look good. I think you could get more than Bogaerts.