St. Louis Cardinals: Questions For Each Pitcher On the Staff
Can Mike Leake and Jonathan Broxton be more than just inning-eaters in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation and bullpen?
2016 was the first full year for both Mike Leake and Jonathan Broxton as members of the St. Louis Cardinals. They both joined the organization as veterans with ample major-league experience with other teams. Leake enters the 2017 season as a back end starter, and Broxton projects as a middle reliever.
Leake had the worst statistical season of his career in 2016, going 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA. He also dealt with a bout of the shingles that forced him to miss a couple of starts and sapped his strength.
In his seven-year career, Leake has been at his best when he’s been able to shoulder a heavy workload and turn in quality starts to keep his team in ballgames. He’s never been a staff ace with unhittable stuff, but his ability to eat innings has real value in a major league rotation.
He’s eclipsed 200 innings just once in his career, in 2014 with the Cincinnati Reds. If he could repeat that for the Cardinals in 2017, it would be a successful season for Leake.
But I wonder if Leake has the ability to be more than just an innings-eater. He doesn’t have the best stuff on the staff, but his five-pitch mix is enough to keep hitters off balance. He induces plenty of ground balls, but he also has the ability to rack up strikeouts.
With what figures to be an improved defense behind him in 2017, Leake’s numbers should get better. He’s had a decent spring so far, and he mentioned that this spring is the “most comfortable” he’s ever been.
If Mike Leake exceeds expectations this season, he could make a good Cardinals rotation great.
Broxton joined the Cardinals in the middle of the 2015 season at the trade deadline. 2016 was his first full season in the St. Louis uniform, and the result was a mixed bag. He posted a 4.30 ERA in sixty-six relief appearances but held opposing hitters to a .229 average.
Broxton was an All-Star closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009 and 2010. Could he return to those heights in St. Louis?
He won’t be pitching in the ninth inning, and he isn’t Matheny’s first choice late in ballgames. Last season, Broxton often pitched in games where the Cardinals were trailing late, in extra innings, or when the starter was pulled early.
All to say, he wasn’t placed in too many high-leverage situations. Yes, Matheny did go to him a bit too often when he had better options, but it’s not like Broxton was the skipper’s eighth-inning specialist.
Even so, an improved Jonathan Broxton would be very beneficial to the Cardinals bullpen in whatever role he fills. You can never have too many quality relief options, and with the way Matheny often manages the bullpen, it would be good if he was presented with a situation in which he couldn’t go horribly wrong with his choices.
Broxton’s been a very good reliever in the past, and if he can return even close to his All-Star form, that would be a big boost for St. Louis.