St. Louis Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting after a great 2019 season. Why is this just the beginning?
During this 2019 Awards week, the St. Louis Cardinals news front has been pretty quiet. Other than Mike Shildt securing his first Manager of the Year award and Dakota Hudson finishing 5th in Rookie of the Year award voting, it hasn’t been exciting. The one award we didn’t mention was Cy Young. Jack Flaherty finished fourth in the voting this year. I would expect this to be the low water mark for Flaherty over the next four years.
I have no issue going out on that limb.
After starting the year off taking a step back from what fans saw in 2018, Flaherty had a borderline historic second half.
Flaherty’s finish put him behind only Max Scherzer (3rd), Hyun-Jin Ryu (2nd), and Jacob DeGrom (1st). This was DeGrom’s second Cy Young award and it was deserved. Judging these top four by strictly ERA+, Flaherty sat at 155, DeGrom was 167, Scherzer was 157, and Ryu was a 179. The fourth-place finish makes sense for Flaherty this year, but his second-half could serve as a jumping point for the future.
It’s safe to finally call Flaherty the Cardinals unrivaled ace. Not just of the team, but an ace by the league’s definition. Players often go through sophomore slumps that can take a whole season. Flaherty shook his slump after the All-Star break and at the age of 24, has plenty of room left to grow.
The reason I am so bullish on Flaherty is that he has the intangibles to be the best pitcher in the league. I am not sure the Cardinals knew they were getting that when they drafted him, but his mentality and work ethic have gotten him to this point.
There was not one start this year that was high leverage where he faltered. In the biggest games of the year, Flaherty got the ball and gave the team a great chance to win. In the four-game sweep at Wrigley field at the end of the season, Flaherty went eight innings and gave up one run. On the final day of the season, Flaherty went seven scoreless innings.
In the postseason, Flaherty gave up four total runs in 13 innings in the NLDS. Even though his only NLCS start was four innings of four runs given up, it’s arguable that that game was not out of hand when Flaherty left the game. That is dependability that the Cardinals haven’t had since Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter were in their prime.
Flaherty also has the leadership qualities and presence of mind that the best pitchers in the league possess. After any game, even when the team wins, Flaherty is always discussing where he can improve and deflecting any praise onto his teammates. He takes the blame and avoids the praise. That is exactly what great leaders do.
When Ronald Acuna Jr. was trying to get chippy with Flaherty during the NLDS, he just nodded and moved on with his start. Flaherty keeps a level head, he stays locked in, and doesn’t get overly angry. He is a fierce competitor that has the perfect bulldog mentality that aces require.
I am being an absolutely raging homer right now when I say this, but watching his interviews, you can see exactly what I’m talking about.
The majority of what Flaherty says in this interview is passing the praise to his teammates and explaining what he needs to do better. He was not satisfied. It wasn’t Flaherty’s best start, but he went six innings and struck out 10 in a game the Cardinals won.
Flaherty also has shown no fear of standing up for what he believes in on Twitter or in interviews as well as being an advocate for all players. This willingness to step up and take a stand for his beliefs also shows the type of personality he has.
Flaherty’s confidence is almost palpable and as Cardinals fans, this would be the only player I would hand a blank check to. These players don’t come around very often and we, as fans, need to realize that.
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I am an unapologetic homer for Jack Flaherty, but I also have seen a lot of great leaders and Flaherty has the qualities needed. Skill can only take you so far, the rest is attitude, leadership, and work ethic. Flaherty has everything needed to be the best pitcher in the league and I have no doubt he will be in the Cy Young conversation for years to come.