Miles Mikolas has gotten off to a rough start. However, I believe he is only one little change away from regaining good form for the St. Louis Cardinals.
To start 2019, Miles Mikolas has not been the rotation stalwart that he was in 2018 for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has been knocked around and is giving up way more hard contact than he did last year. However, I believe there is hope and that a slight adjustment will return Mikolas to All-Star form.
Watching the Lizard King throw to the Pirates yesterday, a few things stood out. One, his velocity is fine. His fastball was routinely in the mid-90s. Two, he had good movement and location. The curveball and slider weren’t just spinning in place and he was throwing some pretty good pitches.
Two pitches stick out in my mind in particular: the fastball that Jung Ho Kang hit over the fence, and the nasty breaking ball Melky Cabrera hit into right field for an extra-base hit. Neither pitch was in the strike zone. Neither hitter is particularly amazing (maybe 3 or 4 years ago this would be a different story). Both pitches had decent movement.
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These facts lead me to a conclusion: the hitters knew what pitch was coming. Miles Mikolas has to be tipping his pitches. All night long, I watched him make quality pitches, only for them to be blasted into the outfield for an extra-base hit. This Pirates lineup isn’t that scary, yet they shelled him. Tipping pitches is the only conclusion I come to.
To reiterate, his velocity is fine. This is backed up by data on Fangraphs which shows his fastball is right at 94 MPH, compared to right around 94.5 for the entirety of 2018 (Yes, it’s slightly down. It has also been very cold). This fact rules out a potential injury. The fact that he hasn’t had too many problems with walks rules out a mechanical funk. He also hasn’t been leaving meatballs over the heart to whack at, further ruling out mechanics.
The only thing I have left to think about is that Mikolas is tipping his pitches. There are only so many things that can go wrong with the type of pitcher Mikolas is (fastball heavy, durable, strong, good-not-flashy velocity, strike-thrower). Injury, mechanics, pitch tipping, or age. Being only 30, age shouldn’t be it.
Sooner rather than later, the St. Louis Cardinals coaching staff should pinpoint exactly how Mikolas is tipping and get it fixed. One slight adjustment and we will all feel better about the large extension we just gave him. There is no cause for alarm yet! Well, at least for Mikolas. Everyone needs to take a deep breath, it’s a long season.