St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinals considering skipping Mike Leake’s turn

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WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 20: Starting pitcher Mike Leake
WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 20: Starting pitcher Mike Leake /
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St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitcher Mike Leake has hit a rough patch since the end of May. The team is considering skipping his turn this Saturday against Tampa Bay.

After going three innings on Sunday, giving up six earned runs on off of eight hits, St. Louis Cardinals‘ starting pitcher Mike Leake is on the verge of missing a turn in the rotation. Well, at least that is the thinking after General Manager, Mike Girsch, said “we’ll take the next couple of days to evaluate the options before announcing anything.”

Before May 29th, Leake reeled off an impressive nine consecutive quality starts to the tune of a 1.91 ERA. In that span of starts, Leake held his opponent’s batting average to .210 with a OBP of .242. During his first nine starts, Leake gained plenty of attention, so much that he was an early candidate for the NL Cy Young award.

His advanced numbers will also tell you the kind of pitcher Leake was before May 29th.

OppBABIPLOB%GB%HR/FBERAFIPxFIPGSv2
@LAD0.18275.00%59.10%0.00%1.131.882.5683
BOS0.28689.30%50.00%14.30%2.573.563.562
CHC0.176100.00%61.10%40.00%37.34.4748
@ATL0.09555.60%45.50%12.50%3.865.285.4860
CIN0.38188.90%42.90%0.00%1.51.973.1761
@MIL0.18866.70%62.50%0.00%32.633.8365
PIT0.2885.70%70.80%0.00%1.422.823.9563
@WSN0.235100.00%58.80%0.00%01.132.4282
CIN0.27385.70%40.90%0.00%1.132.013.5878
Average0.2328890.8298890.5462220.0742221.9566673.1755563.66222266.88889

Thanks to Fangraphs, we are able to see just how good Mike Leake was to begin the season. Some of the numbers that stand out to me are FIP, xFIP, and BABIP. According to Fangraphs, a FIP score of 3.20 or lower is excellent. His average FIP score through the nine starts to begin the season was 3.18. While FIP can give us a good indicator, other tools are used to measure a pitcher’s performance as well.

xFIP is similar to FIP, however, the difference is xFIP is the expected performance of a pitcher and not what the pitcher actually did in that particular game. In most starts above, you can see Leake’s FIP score is lower than xFIP. It means Leake was pitching better than expected based on his ability, independent of defense.

Like FIP, xFIP also has a range of scores that gives us a estimate of how well he has done. In Leake’s case, his average xFIP score was right around 3.66. According tot he Fangraphs table, Leake would rank in between “above-average” and “average.”

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Lastly, BABIP also gives a good idea of how well Leake was pitching. His career BABIP is .295, so to see a BABIP of .232 is wonders for Mike Leake. At the time of his run in April, I wrote about how Leake was effectively locating his pitches. When he does that, he can be as good as anyone. This is something manager Mike Matheny echoed in comments yesterday.

"“I think early on, he was impressive with the hard, late movement and precision. He was putting the ball exactly where he wanted to and it was running both ways. He was doing whatever he wanted to do with the baseball, whenever he wanted to do it.”-Mike Matheny"

However, since those nine starts, Leake has fallen back down to Earth quickly. Since May 29th, Leake’s ERA was .578, raising his season ERA to 4.16. In the same stretch opponent’s started hitting better as well, amounting a .331 batting average. Opponent’s OBP also went shooting up to .383.

Here are the advanced metrics to reflect his games since May 29th:

OppBABIPLOB%GB%HR/FBERAFIPxFIPGSv2
@PIT0.53830.30%50.00%33.30%185.472.9322
@BOS0.47438.50%47.40%0.00%16.624.985.423
KCR0.55666.00%52.60%50.00%7.24.332.4531
@CIN0.36462.50%52.40%0.00%4.52.133.6355
ARI0.15496.20%53.30%33.30%5.49.136.0942
COL0.211100.00%63.20%0.00%01.422.4581
@NYM0.58836.40%47.10%0.00%184.638.2310
@PIT0.41283.30%64.70%0.00%3.64.935.6544
MIA0.43844.10%42.10%50.00%7.3613.55.811
WSN0.2587.50%80.00%0.00%1.133.263.7174
PIT0.28650.00%52.40%0.00%4.53.474.9751
@PHI0.280.00%60.00%0.00%1.52.472.7769
MIL0.36452.10%56.50%33.30%95.34.0334
@CIN0.52676.90%63.20%0.00%3.62.933.2943
@CHC0.22264.50%63.20%33.30%6.756.884.645
LAD0.22271.40%42.10%22.20%5.145.564.1651
0.3628130.6498130.5563750.1596257.018755.0243754.38562542.25

I don’t think there is much to say. The numbers clearly reflect a decrease in performance across the board. At this point, Leake is a shell of the pitcher he was in April and May. I will give him some credit, though. He did point out some fatigue and strength issues early in the summer. However, I’m not sure if that issue has gone away.

If the issues has not gone away, then the St. Louis Cardinals need to make a decision. The two options are let him start or not. While Leake is verbally against the team skipping his start, the team must decide what is more important in the long run.

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I would argue skipping the next start would be both beneficial to the team and Leake. It’s clear Leake’s performances have suffered throughout the summer.

The St. Louis Cardinals are to close to the division, with a minimal amount of games remaining, to keep tacking on losses at this point.

For Leake, how bad could an extra week of rest actually be? I understand some of the pride factor going on here, and I would probably be the same way.

However, if you have any doubt that you are still fatigued or have loss of strength, then get right. Come back healthy in the event the St. Louis Cardinals make the playoffs. We will need him in our rotation or bullpen at any point.

Should the St. Louis Cardinals skip his turn in the rotation, the Cardinals do have a couple of different options. The first would be Tyler Lyons. Although groomed as a starting pitcher, Lyons has found himself more in a bullpen role, possibly with opportunities to save games. His performances, however, definitely merit a look at for this Saturday.

The other option, and probably the most anticipated, is calling up Jack Flaherty from triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals do have an empty space on the 40-man roster, so Flaherty may as well take the spot.

He has pitched excellent in triple-A, really throughout the year. He more than likely would have been a September call up, but I don’t know if the Cardinals can afford to waste time. What makes it more possible is that Flaherty, like Leake, is scheduled to start on Saturday. He would be a perfect spot start candidate for the Cardinals. Who knows, maybe he does so well he sticks with the team.

Next: Memphis Redbirds update

The saying goes, “you can never have too much pitching.” The St. Louis Cardinals are finding that out the hard way lately. Resting Leake could be both beneficial to him and the team in the long run.

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