After parts of 13 MLB seasons, Steve Cishek is taking his low armslot and even lower ERA into retirement, Rich Maclone of The Bourne Enterprise reports. The 36-year-old right-hander will not be pitching in 2023.
“I don’t have anything to complain about,” Cishek says. “I had a good career. I had a lot of fun and got to play with some amazing teammates.”
A large chunk of that career was spent with the Marlins organization. Cishek was selected by the Fish in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB Draft and developed as a reliever from day one. Cishek got his feet wet in the majors in September 2010 and stayed there for good from May 2011 onward. From mid-2012 through early 2015, Cishek was the Marlins’ primary closer—no Miami pitcher has solidified that role for such a long period since then. With the 2015 trade deadline approaching, Cishek was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Kyle Barraclough.
Cishek ranks third in franchise history with 94 career saves as a Marlin and he’s fifth with 284 games pitched. The only all-time Marlins with a sub-3.00 earned run average and a minimum of 250 innings pitched are Kevin Brown (2.30 ERA), José Fernández (2.58), AJ Ramos (2.78) and Cishek (2.86).
The Cardinals non-tendered Cishek after the 2015 campaign, but he handled the “journeyman” phase of his career with aplomb. He posted four more consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA while pitching for the Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.
The first indication that Cishek may be declining came in the second half of 2019 when his control eroded. The COVID-shortened 2020 season was by far his least effective (5.40 ERA and baserunners allowed in nearly every appearance). In speaking to Maclone, Cishek admits that during his last year with the Washington Nationals, recovering between games became increasingly difficult (“it felt like I had to pitch differently”).
During the portion of his career that was tracked by Statcast, Cishek’s average release point was barely four feet off the ground (tied for 19th-lowest among all MLB pitchers). What made him unique was the ability to generate plenty of velocity from that awkward position. His fastball typically sat 91-94 miles per hour as a Marlin and he averaged at least 90 mph in every season with the exception of 2022.
Cishek was very durable. He missed the beginning of 2017 while recovering from a labrum tear, but rarely spent time on the injured list otherwise. He was also a statistical anomaly with a half-run difference between his lifetime earned run average (2.98) and fielder independent pitching (3.49). Miami’s own Sandy Alcantara is among the only remaining active arms with such a large FIP minus ERA gap over a comparable sample size, according to FanGraphs.
The subset of former Florida Marlins players who still play in the majors continues to dwindle. Miguel Cabrera announced that he will retire after the 2023 season. Aníbal Sánchez, Brad Hand and Yusmeiro Petit are currently free agents. Thankfully, Giancarlo Stanton still has five years to go on his contract with the New York Yankees (the Marlins will be paying for some of that on the tail end).