St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty has undeniably been the ace

Jack Flaherty (22) pitches during the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jack Flaherty (22) pitches during the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cardinals needed Jack Flaherty to step up in 2021 and he’s delivered by becoming one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Jack Flaherty has been considered an ace by many since his elite second half of 2019 for the St. Louis Cardinals.

While his sub 1.00 ERA over half a season was great, his entire body of work left some wanting more from the young right-hander. 2020 was supposed to be the year that Flaherty quieted all these concerns about who he is as a pitcher, but it didn’t happen that way.

The Cardinals’ short season forced Flaherty to be limited to just nine total starts. One bad game against the Brewers ballooned his ERA up to 4.91 and that was it. Season done, concerns amplified.

The 2021 Cardinals needed (and will continue to need) Flaherty to be THE guy at the top of their rotation. As great as Adam Wainwright has been, Flaherty needed to show he’s the No. 1 guy.

After his 8th start of the season on Thursday in which he out-dueled Corbin Burnes, Flaherty has left nothing to question to this point in the year: he is the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Throwing 6.0 scoreless innings where he allowed just four hits, Flaherty lowered his season ERA to 2.47 and his FIP to 2.91. His ERA+ is up to 151 and he is the MLB’s first pitcher to get to seven wins after being the first to get to six wins. Pitcher wins don’t really matter, but no other starter has gotten even to six wins, so it’s at least fun to point out.

Comparing Flaherty to the best starters of the NL, he’s 9th in total fWAR and 12th in ERA, sandwiched between Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer. These are great on their own, but Flaherty gets even better if you take out his first start of the year.

Looking back to the 39 degree day in Cincinnati, Flaherty allowed six earned runs over 4.1 innings. His fastball velocity was down that day because of the cold, and it’s not unreasonable to call that start an outlier given he went from warm and sunny Jupiter, FL to those awful conditions in Cincy.

If you take that first start out of Flaherty’s season ERA, it drops all the way down to 1.47 which would put Flaherty behind only Jacob deGrom in the National League. Of course, you could do this with any starter. Take out a bad start and everyone gets better. However, those conditions Flaherty faced on Opening Day seem worthy of throwing out that start. Call me a homer.

Flaherty will have plenty of time to find his place among the NL’s best starters by the end of the long year, but for now, nobody is complaining in St. Louis about his 151 ERA+ and MLB-leading seven wins.

Next. Paul DeJong’s injury is another test for the St. Louis Cardinals. dark

Flaherty still has to show he can do this over the majority of a season, but he has been the unquestioned ace in St. Louis to this point in 2021.