One week ago, the Cardinals completed a 5-year, $80 million contract with 28 year-old starting pitcher Mike Leake.
While the signing provides a clearer projection of the Cardinals’ rotation for the upcoming season, Leake can earn additional bonuses based upon individual performance. Leake recently expressed gratitude through Twitter for his new contract with St. Louis on Christmas Eve.
Projected to serve as a middle-of-rotation innings eater, Leake’s presence reassures depth and consistency to help bridge the gap between veterans like Adam Wainwright to younger starters like Carlos Martinez. For the sake of his new jersey number, here are eight facts that summarize his experiences leading up to last week’s contract.
1. In his last two collegiate years with the Arizona Sun Devils, Leake received Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year award twice. He finished college with a 40-6 record and 2.91 earned run average, playing on rosters with current Major League position players Brett Wallace, Ike Davis and Kole Calhoun.
2. Leake was selected as the Cincinnati Reds’ first round draft pick in 2009, as the eighth selection overall and the fifth pitcher of the draft. After participating in the Arizona Fall League and compiling a strong Spring Training effort in 2010, Leake became the first player in nearly a decade to wind up directly to professional baseball without any minor league experience.
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3. Leake’s career splits against the National League Central could have contributed to a deal with the Cardinals. He owns a 19-9 record against his new division opponents, while also carrying an earned run average of 3.19 in six career starts at Busch Stadium.
4. Leake’s go-to pitch is the sinker ball, which he used in just under half of his deliveries last year. Leake has worked the sinker up to 94 mph in the past and can consistently clock 85 mph with his secondary cutter.
5. Two-way athleticism remains a large part of Leake’s game, who has hit 6 home runs with a .212 career batting average, while averaging 27 defensive assists each season.
6. The contract can also be seen as a testament to Leake’s durability, as he has only had two disabled list stints throughout his six-year career and increased his innings workload in each of his first five seasons.
7. Leake has registered at least 16 quality starts while lowering his WHIP in each of the past four seasons. This trend demonstrates his gradual improvements in control, which could be replicated with experienced backstop Yadier Molina and former teammate Brayan Pena.
8. Despite only having one career postseason start, Leake has played in winning environments during four of his six seasons with the Cincinatti Reds and San Francisco Giants. Knowing how to contribute on winning teams could help a Cardinals’ team that has seven postseason births in the last decade.