Jack Flaherty's recent struggles may be the reality check he needed
Nothing has been pretty about the 2023 St. Louis Cardinals season. It is full of ugly bruises, drama, tension, and frustration. Jack Flaherty gave the most recent display of emotion during post-game interviews. Showing your feelings on the current situation is acceptable and should be encouraged. But Flaherty looked defensive and insecure. Is this him lashing at the media for uncomfortable questions? Or is Flaherty realizing he is a shell of his former self?
Jack Flaherty has been trying to get back to his unworldly dominant 2019 self for years now. Injuries have plagued Jack including a chronic shoulder injury that is the kryptonite to his success going forward. The pitching quality has been declining and we are at the worst display of it. In 2023, he pitched 39.1 innings with a 6.18 ERA, 1.729 WHIP, and a 5.68 FIP. The biggest issue has been his command. I was present for his “no-hit bid” vs the Toronto Blue Jays in the second game of the year. It did not feel like he was throwing a not hit bid through five innings. He was walking batters relentlessly and looked sloppy. The walks have been under control since then, but the word sloppy is still very much at play.
Flaherty's barrel % has skyrocketed to 12.3% with his career average being 7.4%. Exit velo is at 89.1 MPH with a career average being 87.3 MPH. The slash of XBA/XSLG/WOBA is .263/.440/.389 with the career averages being .226/.382/.290. If all these nerdy stats just put you to sleep I will make this a quick recap for you: Jack Flaherty is getting hit off of hard and consistently. His entire percentile ranking is in the blue except for whiff% and extension. He is showing a noticeable drop in his pitching velocity and is showing a dramatic drop in confidence. His start vs the Cubs displayed this.
Start vs Chicago Cubs
His outing vs the Cubs ended with a stat line of 5.0 IP, 7 hits allowed, 3 ER, 1 HR allowed, 5 BB, and only 3 SO. The pitches were floating all across the zone with no sharpness behind them. The fastball started near 93 MPH and dropped down to the high 80s. It looked like a pitcher on the sudden downhill collapse. Recent call-up Andre Pallante would take over in the sixth and the bullpen would hold their own which led to the 6-4 victory. But with the tabloid season the Cardinals are having, the postgame remarks can be the next front cover.
Jack Flaherty was faced with the STL media who are asking legitimate questions, but feels like a slow squeeze every night to the team feeling the amount of pressure. It started with Jim Hayes of Bally Sports Midwest asking about why he was adjusting his fastball speeds throughout the game. It was mentioned during the broadcast as to why he would but Jim wanted clarity. Flaherty explained he has always done this which is part of his pitching craft. But his tone came across as irritated and annoyed. It led to the comment of the night where Jack stated, “Well, then you don’t understand pitching and that is okay.” to Derrick Goold of the STL Post Dispatch when Derrick was standing up for the fans who are wanting to obtain the insight of a pitcher who is using this approach—very odd behavior after a victory which the team needed desperately.
Very similar to what I had to say about Oliver Marmol, Jack Flaherty is missing the mark on accountability. He is one of the pitchers who brought their complaints of Willson Contreras’ pitch calling to management. But nothing about Flaherty’s game shows that’s the case. He has been on a downward trend for years and only gets further from his short window of stardom. We are at the point where we cannot bring criticism to him or else you are told you do not know pitching. Pretty bold statement for a guy who cannot accept the reality that his problems lie within himself.