Zoning in on Steve Cishek


Zoning in on the 2016 Mariners is a daily series in which we’ll examine one player every day, 30 total, in the lead-up to Opening Day. We’ll explain their role on the field, what they’re like off of it and provide highlights and photos.

There will be lots of new faces on the 2016 Mariners, in roles big and small. But when the Mariners signed Steve Cishek in December, there was no question whatsoever what that role would be.

“The intention is that he’s our closer,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said at the time of his acquisition. “He brings with him a great deal of experience—a couple of 30-save seasons in Miami. Obviously, he had a slow start to last season but a really fast finish. I’m really happy to have Steve on board. I do believe this is a very positive addition to the back of our bullpen.”

Cishek had something of an up-and-down season in 2015, so he comes to the Mariners as one of a few bounceback candidates. And, like them, he’s shown in the past he’s capable of performing at a very high level.

Dipoto’s quote mentions the 30-save seasons, but the advanced statistics tell an even better story.

By Wins Above Replacement (or WAR), as measured by Fangraphs, Cishek was one of the ten most productive relievers in baseball in 2013 and 2014—slotting in at ninth for the two years combined, one spot ahead of the Rays’ Jake McGee, now with the Rockies, and one spot behind the Cardinals’ Trevor Rosenthal.

So what happened?

“I came into spring training [last year] and my arm slot was quite a bit lower than it had been in the past,” Cishek said. “As a result, I was losing velocity and my slider didn’t have as much bite.”

Already here in Spring Training, the data shows a much higher release point. Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, here’s where he was month-by-month last year and then, circled, now here in Peoria.


That’s a big change, and closer to where he was in 2013 and 2014.

So far here in spring, he has battled a little bit of bicep soreness, but he’s back on the mound and looking good–working cleaning innnings against the Oakland and Cleveland.

“It felt good,” Cishek said after working a 1-2-3 inning against the Athletics last week. “The ball was coming out nice and easy and smooth down the mound.”

Off the Field

Over the offseason, he hosted the inaugural Steve Cishek Winter Whiffleball Classic with proceeds benefitting youth baseball in his hometown of Falmouth, Massachusetts.

“I just wanted to be able to do something to give back to the community,” he told the Hot Stove show. “We raised just over $6,000. We were very thankful for that, it was a fun event.

He played a quite a bit of basketball growing up, and enjoyed it a lot in high school. In speaking again with the Hot Stove show, he said all the agility work he did in college for baseball, after giving up playing basketball competitively, actually made him a better hoops player—as he was able to dunk when he never could before.

His favorite breakfast cereal is Cookie Crisp and his go-to karaoke song is All My Life  by K-Ci & JoJo.





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