St. Louis Cardinals reliever John Gant was trending on Twitter a few days ago. Why? Because he’s good.
@stl_nation appeared to start the craze with this tweet:
Cardinals fans obliged and expressed their appreciation for the reliever. This isn’t the first time Gant has been the subject of memes. Those who follow the St. Louis Cardinals subreddit will often see the message of “Who is John Gant?” from the Cardinals faithful, often followed by the obligatory “what,” “when,” “where,” “why” and “how.”
Gant is more than a meme, though; he’s been a very productive pitcher for the Cardinals during his time in St. Louis, and fans rightfully took notice.
Before Gant’s arrival in St. Louis, those outside Atlanta who knew of him might have only been aware of his unusual delivery, which was eventually forbidden by the MLB in its 2017 rule changes. Why Carter Capps was allowed to keep his delivery and not Gant will remain a great mystery throughout baseball.
Gant became a large part of the Cardinals’ bullpen after a nondescript year with the Braves in 2016 and 17.1 unremarkable innings with the Cardinals in 2017. In 2018, Gant came into his own, becoming an above-average pitcher by adjusted ERA+ standards with a score of 112 (100 signifying an average pitcher). His FIP of 4.07 was higher than his ERA of 3.47, signifying some luck, but he showed that he could be a solid bullpen piece.
Gant improved further in 2019, or at least the first half of it. The statistic that jumps out is his 11-1 win-loss ratio, although most fans know they should put very little stock in that stat. His FIP (3.73) once again outpaced his ERA (3.66), but while these statistics are decent, they’re more remarkable when one recognizes his second-half collapse.
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In the first half of 2019, Gant held opponents to a minuscule batting average of .172 in 44.2 innings and had a 2.22 ERA. The second half was much less kind to Gant, as he lost his control, walking 19 in 21.2 innings and pitching to an ERA of 6.65. Most notably, he was left off of the postseason roster that year because of his sharp fall from grace.
Gant didn’t let 2019’s rocky finish deter him, however. In 2020’s abbreviated season, his FIP of 2.19 actually outpaced his already impressive ERA of 2.40. According to Baseball Savant, Gant threw his sinker more than ever in 2020; it constituted 38.8% of his pitches, which is interesting considering the sinker is disappearing from today’s game. And while he had lost velocity on his pitches, his higher spin rate helped him miss more barrels.
Barring injury, Gant is sure to be a key piece in the bullpen for the Cardinals in 2021. Cardinals fans on Twitter — and even Adam Wainwright — gave him some deserving appreciation, and Gant looks poised to show his gratitude where it counts: on the mound.