St. Louis Cardinals: Who is this season’s Mike Leake?
After the 2016 season, it looked like Mike Leake might be one of the St. Louis Cardinals worst signings in history. So far this season, Leake has flipped the script and has Cardinal fans buzzing.
After John Mozeliak signed Mike Leake in the 2015 offseason there were mixed feelings for St. Louis Cardinals fans. Unfortunately, Leake didn’t do anything to calm fans nerves about his contract last season.
After posting a career-high ERA, it was completely understandable that fans would be disappointed with the signing. Fortunately for Leake, the Cardinals, and the fans, Leake has been a completely different pitcher in 2017.
The 2016 season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons; a seemingly talented roster waster while the rival Cubs went on to win the World Series. After the St. Louis Cardinals missed out on the gem of the off-season, David Price, they ended up settling on signing Mike Leake.
When Leake signed a five-year, eighty-million-dollar deal there were certain expectations put in front of him. In 2016 he did not live up to those expectations, but so far this year it looks like Leake is worth every cent.
As of the middle of May, Mike Leake is leading the National League in ERA, ahead of perennial CY Young candidate, Clayton Kershaw. Leake has never been known for being a lights out guy. His current 2.03 ERA is more than a full point lower than his career-best (3.37 in 2013). This is something to be excited about, but regression is to be expected.
Tampering expectations going forward when it comes to Leake will be a key to Cardinals fans’ sanity. If after following him so far this season you believe he will hold a nearly 2.00 ERA, you are bound to be disappointed. If Leake can keep his ERA under 3.50 the rest of the year, then this season will absolutely be a success for him.
Leake’s stats show a pitcher having incredible success, but on the surface what they don’t show is a pitcher who is bound to regress. Last season Mike Leake could not seem to get outs. He allowed the most hits of his career, so it’s no surprise his BABIP was the highest of his career.
Following up last year’s .321 BABIP, Leake has had the fortune of posting only a .247 BABIP to this point in 2017, the lowest of his career. This is the kind of stat that will even out and aid in Leake’s regression to the mean as the season continues.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals: These are the best trade partners this off-season
- Cardinals: Jose Quintana’s Market Price is Overvalued
- Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt builds home for single mother and her family
- Cardinals: Is Lars Nootbaar underrated or overrated?
- 3 reasons why the Cardinals should wait to address rotation until 2024
To go along with his stellar BABIP, Leake is posting an incredible 0.99 WHIP. Unfortunately, a guy with a career 1.27 WHIP is unlikely to hold a sub-1.00 WHIP the entire season; those are Clayton Kershaw numbers. Leake took big strides last year in limiting walks and that seems be one thing that has stuck with him so far this year. Keeping his walk rate low will be important for him to keep these incredible stats.
Finally, Leake’s home run rate is at it’s lowest point in his nine-year career. A 0.68 HR/9 is quite a bit better than his career average of 1.08. Leake has always been the kind of guy to keep the ball inside the park, that isn’t going to change. He will still be the ground ball pitcher we have all been used to, but expecting a few more balls to leave the yard would be a normal expectation.
Improved defense from last season, as minimal as it might be has helped Leake quite a bit as well. This is something that the team can control and will help keep Leake’s numbers low throughout the year. Leake will continue to serve up ground balls and as long as the guys behind him are able to reel them in, there will be a lot fewer guys on base to hurt him.
Thus far this season Leake has been an incredible watch. He has been the St. Louis Cardinals most reliable pitcher. A far cry from the guy who had fans clamoring for the 80-million dollar man to be moved to the bullpen.
Next: Time to cut Jhonny Peralta
It is hard to say what Mike Leake will finish the season with, stat-wise, but keeping those expectations reasonable will help keep fans off the ledge when they start to see his ERA rise little by little. Then again, he could prove me and many others wrong and be in the CY Young conversation at the end of the season. Only time will tell.