St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty is a Cy Young contender…for 2020

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 03: Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 3, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 03: Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 3, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The ace of the St. Louis Cardinals is no longer in question. Could the ace of the team be putting himself in Cy Young award conversations for years to come?

If Cy Young Awards could be given out monthly, Jack Flaherty would win the National League award without question for August. Of course, that’s now how it works, but it sets up a potential bid for the St. Louis Cardinals‘ right-hander next season.

On Tuesday, Jack Flaherty pitched eight shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants. He did not allow a hit until Mike Yastrzemski hit a clean single into right field with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. The bullpen shut down the Giants in the top of the ninth for a St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 win.

Flaherty’s first start this month built upon his dominant August, where the right-hander won NL Pitcher of the Month with a 4-1 record, a 0.71 ERA, 11.13 K/9, and 1.5 WAR, according to FanGraphs’ Pitching Leaderboards for the National League.

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Since the start of the second half, Flaherty has pitched like a Cy Young contender. Unfortunately, his first-half struggles weaken his chances for this year’s award. One of those struggles was against left-handed hitters.

FanGraph’s Community Research’s Nat Brown researched Flaherty’s advanced statistics against left-handers. According to Brown’s article, “Dissecting Jack Flaherty’s Approach Against Lefties”, lefties were hitting the ball harder in the first half this year than in 2018.

From Brown:

“It’s easy to see, but through the first half of the 2019 season, Flaherty has been drastically less productive. His surrounding numbers paint the whole picture: the average exit velocity from lefties has risen from 81.9 mph to 84.4 mph, with their GB% dropping from 42.5% to 35.8%. Lefties have been replacing those ground balls with batted balls in the air, as his FB% went from 34.4% to 41.8%.”

It also does not help that pitchers such as Max Scherzer (6.1 WAR), Jacob deGrom (5.7 WAR), and Stephen Strasburg (5.2 WAR) are in the National League and are the top three leaders among NL pitchers in WAR. Flaherty currently sits at fourteenth, tied with Colorado’s German Marquez with 3.4 WAR for the season. That said, the Jack Flaherty we see pitching now is a night-and-day difference.

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Flaherty has been able to get both right-handed and left-handed batters out more frequently. With Scherzer, deGrom, and Strasburg having stronger seasons, the chances for Flaherty to be even considered for the Cy Young Award look bleak. Barring any injuries or regression, we are looking at a quality candidate for next year’s Cy Young Award.

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