Exit Interview: Mike Leake

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Talking About Birds, the only Cardinal podcast that….well, whatever Nate wants to make up this week.  Nate and Ben break down the week that was with humor and insight.  Plus they have me on sometimes, which I enjoy.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Mike Leake

Season stats: 9-12, 4.69 ERA, 30 games, 176.2 IP, 203 H, 30 BB, 125 K, 1.319 WHIP, 3.83 FIP, 0.5 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 8

Overall grade: C

Positives: His FIP was significantly better than his actual ERA, so he pitched better than the basic stats would indicate….his 2016 FIP was the best FIP of his career….his 20 homers allowed was his lowest mark since his rookie year when he allowed 19….was better in the first half, allowing a .268/.298/.422 line and an ERA of 4.14….went 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in May….had a 2.14 ERA in his nine wins….allowed a .695 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position….was better when he stuck to four days’ rest (4.14 ERA and a .260 BA against)….went 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA against the Brewers….did a better job during the day (4.02 ERA)….had back-to-back double-digit strikeout games July 10 and July 18.

Negatives: Allowed five runs or more in nine of his starts….had a three game stretch at the end of July/beginning of August where he posted a 10.69 ERA in 16 innings….righthanders hit .304/.325/.427 against him….the second half was a disaster, as he put up a 5.62 ERA and a .320/.353/.461 offensive line against….did not get off on the right foot, going 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA in April….had an ERA of 4.85 or higher in each month other than May….batters had a 1.112 OPS on 1-0 counts and 1.952 OPS on 2-0 counts….an even 1-1 count wasn’t much better (1.206 OPS)….had a 5.64 ERA against the Cubs.

Overview: I made sure to have Talking About Birds be our sponsor here because Ben has been an adamant opponent of the Mike Leake deal since it was signed.  2016 only helped add ammo to his quiver, as Leake was overall less of the inning-eating, middling pitcher that we were expecting.  To be fair, the Cardinals’ defense wasn’t exactly a great fit for a guy that gets ground balls and his control was still there, as noted by the fact he basically walked one batter a game.  His BABIP was .321, the highest mark that he’s ever had in his career.  There should have been better results than there were.

That said, as Ben would probably point out if he was writing this (or perhaps is saying it aloud if reading it), even the best of Mike Leake wasn’t going to be all that great.  He could hold together a shaky rotation by always going out there and giving you a middling to good start, but that’s not exactly what this team needs.  (Ben would also point out they don’t need it for four more years either with all the various arms in the organization, which is a strong point as well.)  With a no-trade clause (and the very strong likelihood that nobody would be motivated enough to buy that out), Leake is going to be here a while.

Outlook: If you wanted to be positive about Leake, you could note that the Cardinals’ expressed focus on defense should play into his hands.  A lower BABIP, a few more hits turned into outs, and Leake can again be a solid pitcher.  The question is, could the Cardinals do better?  When you have a slew of options such as (depending on health) Tim Cooney, Marco Gonzales, even Luke Weaver, is having Leake on the roster the best use of resources?  I guess it doesn’t matter–he’s going to be here for 2017 no matter what–but it has a chance to be one of John Mozeliak’s rare missteps.

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