St. Louis Cardinals: Don’t Give Up on Mike Leake
Mike Leake hasn’t been what St. Louis Cardinals’ fans had hoped he would be so far. That doesn’t mean he should be voted out of the rotation just yet.
If St. Louis Cardinals’ fans could play a game of Rotation Survivor, Mike Leake would probably be the first pitcher voted off the mound. He was certainly the biggest signing of the offseason that seemingly came out of nowhere. So far, he hasn’t exactly been what you would call productive.
Through Leake’s first five starts, he’s posting an (0-3) record to pair with 5.83 ERA. In his career, he’s never had a season where he had an ERA below three. Although Leake is hyped as a ground ball pitcher, fans have witnessed the complete opposite in 2016.
If you take a look at his numbers, you’ll see he has a history of giving up a lot of home runs. In his rookie season, Leake started 22 games for the Cincinnati Reds and gave up 19 home runs. That’s the least amount of home runs he’s given up since.
Love him or hate him, you have to understand that Leake is a very consistent pitcher. Whether he’s consistently good, or bad, is a matter of flipping a coin. One thing that is consistently good is he will eat up innings.
Since 2012, Leake has never started less than 30 games. That’s a lot more than some pitchers on the Cardinals’ staff.
If you think Leake is a blow it by you type of pitcher, you probably over evaluated when the news broke that the Cardinals had signed him. Undoubtedly, Leake’s best year was 2014 with the Reds. He pitched 214.1 innings and struck out 164 batters. Both of those are career-high numbers.
Another thing to keep in mind with Leake is his lack of postseason experience. His first and only playoff appearance famed in the 2012 National League Division Series. Leake pitched just 4.1 innings giving up five runs off six hits. His postseason ERA is 10.38. Johnny Cueto who was supposed to make that start against the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants, but he was hurt.
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The other thing one should consider before criticizing Leake is the pressure that comes with signing a big contract like he did. The five-year $75 million contract he signed was the Cardinals’ largest ever for a free agent pitcher. That is a lot to have to live up to.
The offense the Cardinals have shown this year is what the entire fan base had hoped for and more. If the Cardinals’ rotation can’t produce there will be some trouble putting W’s on the board. Leake has been bad, that goes without saying. If you add the lackluster defense at times into the equation, you get a team with a record around .500.
Unfortunately the .500 winning percentage isn’t the equivalent to a .500 batting average. If that were the case, fans wouldn’t panic in mass hysteria every time Leake took the mound. There’s one last point fans should consider before throwing in the towel on Mike Leake.
Let’s play a game of scenario for a second. If you go to the grocery store and you can get the store brand milk for $2.09 a gallon instead of the name brand for $3.89, you’re going to choose the store brand if you’re trying to save money, right? It may not taste as good, but you get what you pay for.
That’s not to say the Cardinals overpaid for Mike Leake, but one has to think that there was a bit of panic going on in the front office after losing Jason Heyward and John Lackey to the rival Chicago Cubs in the offseason. Maybe this was management’s way of letting fans know it’s not afraid to go out and spend some money.
Overall, Mike Leake’s numbers so far in a Cardinals’ uniform in April haven’t been great. The good thing is, it’s just that, April. Leake’s career numbers in the month of April haven’t been superb, but sometimes it takes players some time before they get going.
In his career, Leake has pitched 209.1 innings, given up 26 home runs and has a 4.34 ERA. In May, they drop significantly to 18 home runs and a 3.43 ERA. You can look at a stat sheet all day long and try to come up with your own evaluations of different players.
The biggest takeaway that fans should never forget is that baseball is a game of failure. Sometimes things have to be worse before they ever have a chance of getting better.If you want to waive the white flag every time Leake takes the hill, fine. Just remember what you thought in April once the calendar flips to October.