Well, that didn't take long. Andrew Cashner, riding what is a brief but spectacular run of ace-level pitching, tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout last night in San Diego. The Detroit Tigers were helpless virtually from the first pitch, managing only a bloop single (Rajai Davis in the sixth inning).
That's the first of what will likely be around a hundred or so for the 2014 season. Right now, however, we're more interested in Cashner, who suddenly seems poised to break out as a major force for the Padres.
A first round pick by the Cubs in 2008, Cashner was sent to San Diego in 2012 by Chicago's still lightly-dusted Gold Dust Twins (Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) so that they could consummate their bromance with Anthony Rizzo (the big, hulking first baseman who'd become much more than a sixth-round draft choice to both men while they were exiled BFF's).
Rizzo looks to be a middling major-league first baseman, but Cashner, after having pitched through a series of injuries (including a freak hunting accident--Cashner, from Conroe, TX, ranks high in the "good ole boy" quotient), has emerged in his last eight starts (since last August 25) as a certifiably scary varmint (0.92 ERA).
As always, QMAX (short for Ye Olde "Quality Matrix") gives us a mess of useful detail. Since throwing his first "1S" start (August 25, 2013, against--appropriately enough--the Cubs), Cashner has thrown five more "top hit prevention" starts (games in the 1S or 2S region of the QMAX chart). His raw QMAX averages over his last eight starts: 2.25 S/2.13 C/4.38 T.
That's Koufax-Gibson-Maddux-Pedro territory, assuming (and yes, it's a big assumption...) that it can go on for an entire season.
It looks like Cashner got sent to the right place for potential hitter domination. He's showing a marked tendency to thrive in Petco Park, which favors pitchers anyway. In 2013-14, he's got a 1.96 ERA at home (QMAX: 2.71/2.57/5.38) as opposed to 3.80 on the road (QMAX: 4.13/2.67/6.80). In his last five starts at home, his ERA is 0.50.
Of course, it's too soon to take any of this to the bank, but there's a distinct possibility that we are seeing the emergence of a superstar, right here, right now. If so, the Padres can send flowers to Theo and Jed in thanks for their Anthony Rizzo man-crush.