St. Louis Cardinals: Time to Patch the Leake?

Jun 19, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Mike Leake (8) stands on the mound after giving up a solo home run to Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland (18) during the fourth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Mike Leake (8) stands on the mound after giving up a solo home run to Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland (18) during the fourth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals found themselves behind a steep deficit on Saturday night in Seattle due to the inconsistency of Saturday’s starter.  A disappointing season, for sure, but is it time to fix the Leake?

St. Louis Cardinals’ starter, Mike Leake, has yet to have the positive season that fans would like to see.  Even Leake himself surely must be frustrated.  Is this what other teams knew to be true going into this season and therefore avoided adding Leake?

For his career, Leake has hovered around an ERA of 3.9-4.0 (averaged).  This season, Leake is sporting a 2016 ERA of 4.25.  This is due to many disappointing games.

In his career, his best season was found in 2013 with Cincinnati when he mastered a 3.37 ERA in that tiny ballpark.  After six seasons with the Reds, Leake was traded in mid 2015 to San Fransisco– a friendlier park to pitchers.

After posting a 9-5 record with the Reds in 2015 through twenty-one games (136.2 innings), Leake went to the Giants and appeared in nine games (55.1 innings).  Let me remind you that San Fransisco is larger park and known as a more friendly park for pitchers.

A quick note about the limited games: Leake was placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 3, 2015 due to a hamstring injury and wasn’t activated until August 22.

In his nine games with the Giants, Leake carried a 2-5 record allowing twenty-five earned runs over fifty-one hits.  That is just too much.  As this trade came at the end of Leake’s contract, the Giants chose to release to free agency.

Enter the Cardinals who provided Leake a five-year contract valued at $80MM with a six-year, mutual option.  What did the Cardinals see that other teams didn’t?  Or, maybe, what didn’t the Cardinals see that other teams saw which influenced the other teams’ avoidance?

Let’s look at his numbers in games this season to see if there is a trend.

1Apr 6STL@PITL,1-5L(0-1)994.174431018.31239959
2Apr 13STLMILL,4-666.084416006.97278457
3Apr 18STLCHCL,0-5L(0-2)47.064316115.71298861
4Apr 24STL@SDPW,8-555.075324115.64258659
5Apr 29STLWSNL,4-5L(0-3)47.055512205.83279264
6May 4STLPHIW,5-445.044413206.03207451
7May 10STL@LAAW,8-1W(1-3)58.061115005.103211375
8May 15STL@LADW,5-2W(2-3)46.051123104.66237147
9May 21STLARIW,6-2W(3-3)57.040003014.07269164
10May 26STL@WSNL,1-2L(3-4)47.072215203.90289562
11May 31STL@MILW,10-3W(4-4)46.052214103.82238352
12Jun 7STL@CINL,6-766.1106605204.22289264
13Jun 12STL@PITW,8-3W(5-4)47.063206004.082610571
14Jun 19STLTEXL,4-566.083205204.00268656

Do you see any trends?  Certainly the high ERAs are of concern.  Adding to this, the number of pitches across the short number of innings is of concern.  Adding to this, the number of walks are of concern.  Adding to this, the number of home runs allowed are of concern.  Adding to this…

On the positive side of things… Are there any?  Notice that the chart above is absent Saturday night’s game.  Here’s the line from last night:

3.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO, 4.25 ERA

The hovering around 4.00 ERA is a troubling thing for this year’s Cardinals team.  To his dismay, in each of his losses, the Cardinals offense simply has not been able to provide support and protection for Leake including last night wherein the Cardinals lost by one run (a catching trend when Leake pitches).

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Like Lance Lynn before him (whose spot he is filling in the rotation), the Cardinals simply seem uninterested in providing Leake with any sizeable run support.  In games like this, the starting pitcher is forced to tightrope each pitch and each situation.  This would account for Leake’s struggles with number of pitches across the short innings.

So is there cause for real concern?  There might actually be real reason for concern.  This might be attributable to an injury to which fans are not privy.  This might be something hamstring-related.  This concern might also be attributable a simple need for refinement that might not be available against major league teams.

So, what do I suggest?  Let me assuage any worries that I think it is time to abandon the Leake-y boat.  Instead, I think it would do Leake some good to visit the 7-day disabled list for some phantom injury that would allow him a rehab start or two in Memphis to refine his command.

In following this thinking, this change might allow for Tyler Lyons to make spot start or two or for someone else like say Alexander Reyes (Alex Reyes to us) to climb up and try his hand at MLB hitters.

To these points, Lyons has been simply great out of the pen (sporting a 2016 3.67 ERA) in mop-up situations.  A few starts could add to his trade value.

Reyes, who really does need some additional time in AAA, has posted a 4.35 ERA in Memphis across 31 innings.  Reyes is a strikeout machine having posted 48 Ks in just seven games.  This short jump up would show if he really has stuff or what needs additional work.

If we run with this thinking, Leake’s next start is scheduled to be against the Royals on June 30.  If the Cardinals were to make a DL move, which I feel is a little unlikely with this opponent coming to town, then I would feel more comfortable with Lyons getting this start.

Noting that I feel this is unlikely, I would suspect that Leake gets another chance to patch his own leaks before a move is considered.  That said, after the Royals visit, Leake’s next start would be against the Pirates.  Leake has a 1-1 record this season facing the Pirates so he will likely remain active through this game too unless a real injury is to blame.

As you can see, the Leake dilemma is not one that is quickly solved or easily solved.  Let us hope then that Derek Lilliquist can find the culprit for the leak and patch it on his own without a dramatic change.

Next: The Missing Secret Weapon

What do you think?  Let me know on Twitter and let’s hope that Leake, or the offense, finds ways of becoming the pitcher (or offense) that winning ways requires.