San Diego right-hander Andrew Cashner is coming off his first full season as a starter wherein he garnered a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 26 starts. What was most impressive about last year’s performance was the fact that Cashner kept getting better as the season progressed. Specifically, Cashner posted a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP following the All-Star break, including garnering a 2.25 ERA in August and a 0.76 ERA in September. Cashner’s ERA as a starter (3.04) ranked tenth in the National League among those with at least 25 starts. Let’s also note that Cashner’s four-seam fastball velocity increased more from the first half to the second half than all but two starting pitchers in the National League. And, as a result of the increased velocity, Cashner’s swinging strike rate improved from 7% in the first half to 10% in the second half.
Cashner’s elite skill set remained intact during spring training where he went 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in five games. And, that momentum has carried over to the 2014 regular season wherein Cashner has thrown three consecutive quality starts, including a nine-inning shutout over Detroit in his last outing (0 ER; 1 H; 11K; 1 BB). Overall, Cashner is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.81 WHIP this season, including posting a 0.60 ERA and 0.60 WHIP in two home starts (15.0 IP; 1 ER; 5 H; 16 K; 4 BB). The 27-year-old right-hander has always excelled within the friendly confines of PETCO Park where he was 5-4 with a 1.95 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in thirteen appearances last year (78.1 IP; 17 ER; 63 H; 52 K; 13 BB).
I also like the fact that Cashner is supported by an outstanding San Diego bullpen that owns a 2.40 ERA and 1.28 WHIP this season, including a 1.11 ERA and 1.11 WHIP at home, a 0.47 ERA and 0.98 WHIP versus division opponents and a 0.96 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over the last seven games. Look for Cashner and his supporting cast to shut down a scuffling Colorado squad that is 3-6 on the road where they are batting just .256 with a .312 on base percentage (3.6 runs per game).
Meanwhile, Colorado southpaw Jorge De La Rosa takes the mound in terrible form with a 9.70 ERA and 1.46 WHIP this season, including an 11.43 ERA and 1.39 WHIP on the road. De La Rosa has lasted just 4 1/3-innings in each of his first three starts, and his current struggles were for foreshadowed in spring training wherein he posted a 5.40 ERA and 1.68 WHIP (16.2 IP; 10 ER; 21 H; 11 K; 7 BB). Reports indicate that De La Rosa has abandoned his command and control from last year where he went 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA. To suggest that De La Rosa is lost at the moment would be an understatement. “This year I’ve thrown harder because of the way I feel. I’m going to check my video from last year and start pitching.”
Finally, De La Rosa’s home/road dichotomy cannot be ignored as he posted a 2.76 ERA at home compared to a 4.19 ERA on the road last season. He also garnered a pedestrian 4.18 ERA in the month of April and a 4.28 ERA at night (1.92 ERA in day games). From a technical standpoint, Colorado is a money-burning 31-48 (-20.6 units) following a win and 14-36 (-16.9 units) as road underdogs of +125 to +175, while De La Rosa is a woeful 6-24 (-15.3 units) as a road underdog of +175 or less. With San Diego standing at a profitable 29-16 (+14.3 units) at home after winning four of its last six games and 53-36 (+17.6 units) at home following three or more consecutive home games, take the Padres behind one of the best pitchers in baseball and invest with confidence.