Cardinals' Miles Mikolas has flipped the script on his season

In his last 6 starts, Mikolas has lowered his season ERA from 6.19 to 4.85 What is different from the beginning of the year to now and from last year to this year?
Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
2 of 2

What is different for the Lizard King?

Not much is truly different. His pitch mixes have varied from his worst starts to his best starts. Against the Mets on May 7th where he gave up 6 runs in 4 innings, Mikolas threw mostly 4-seamers with sinkers and sliders mixed in. He did the same against the Phillies on May 31st where he allowed just 2 runs in 6 innings.

On April 20th against the Brewers, he threw a lot of sliders with sinkers and 4-seamers mixed in. Mikolas allowed 5 runs in 4.2 innings that game. He did the same against the Pirates in his most recent start, and he was able to shut them out.

Mikolas is favoring his sinker more in June while he's used his curveball and changeup less often. His four-seam and slider usage has flip-flopped as well month to month. It's probably best that he increases his sinker usage to lean into his groundball tendencies. For his career, Mikolas has been a groundball pitcher. Last year was much different.

He had a groundball rate of just 39% in 2023; prior to that year, his lowest groundball rate was 45.9%. Hitters were able to loft the ball significantly more often, as evidenced by higher-than-average fly ball and line drive rates last year. This year, by using his sinker more often and his curveball less often, Mikolas has been able to keep the ball on the ground.

Below are two charts detailing this data for 2023 and 2024

Pitch (2023)












Pitch (2024)












Across the board, Mikolas's curveball has gotten worse and his sinker has gotten better. Therefore, he's relying on the latter pitch much more often. Additionally, Mikolas's sinker is finding the edge of the zone at a 48.9% clip. His curveball is on the edges just 35.9% of the time. Hitters are also chasing his sinker more than they are his curveball this year (33.7% vs 32%, respectively). These pitches have two different desired outcomes, but the edges of the zone are where hitters and pitchers live and die.

Miles has also worked on integrating his changeup more often, though that pitch has been hit pretty well this year (.321 batting average, .364 wOBA). The inclusion of a sweeper has boded well so far for the righty, as it has a 25% whiff rate paired with a 31.6% chase rate.

If Miles Mikolas can continue to use his sinker well and generate groundballs, the Cardinals may have a near-vintage starting pitcher on their hands. He's allowing home runs at an accelerated rate this year compared to previous years, but Mikolas has been able to himself out of trouble via groundballs while still striking out a respectable percentage of batters. Perhaps John Mozeliak was right in trusting the Lizard King with a consistent starting rotation spot this offseason, especially given his fiery comments to start the season.