Exit Interview 2017: Mike Leake

For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong.  The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year.  Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter.  As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.

Player: Mike Leake

Season stats: 7-12, 4.21 ERA, 26 games, 154 IP, 169 H, 35 BB, 103 K, 1.325 WHIP, 4.24 FIP, 0.8 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 8, Goat 6

Overall grade: B-

Positives: Started off the year so well his name and “Cy Young” were used in the same sentence….had a 1.35 ERA in April, making five starts, walking just five, and striking out 25….gave up just one run in 15 innings against the Nationals….had a 3.38 ERA at Busch Stadium….batters had a .699 OPS against him in the first half….limited hitters to a .202 average in May….limited hitters to a .487 OPS when he had two strikes….had a .623 OPS against when he had six or more days of rest….had a 3.45 ERA in day games….had a 2.25 ERA and batters hit .145 in the three games with Eric Fryer behind the plate.

Negatives: Had a 5.00 ERA after that great start to the season….four of his 10 starts after July 1 were less than five innings….had an 8.88 ERA in August….seven of his 26 starts saw him allow five or more runs….lefties hit 20 points higher than righties against him (.288 vs .268)….batters hit .312 against him in the second half….batters hit .412/.426/.649 on the first pitch….non-pitchers hit .289 against him….had an .853 OPS against with runners in scoring position….batters hit .281 in late and close situations….his high leverage line against was .345/.376/.571….allowed three home runs in two different starts….allowed multiple home runs in six starts.

Overview: Who among us thought that we’d be talking about Leake as an ex-Cardinal in this series?  With a no-trade clause, a good chunk left on his contract, and middling success over the year-plus in St. Louis, finding a taker for him might be one of John Mozeliak’s (or Michael Girsch, depending on who you believe pulled the trigger) best moves.  Leake was in a serious tailspin, to the point where the manager didn’t want to send him out for his last start.  And when the manager–THIS manager, this loyal-to-a-fault manager–doesn’t want you to pitch, you know things are going badly.  The front office convinced Mike Matheny to put him out there, Leake went seven innings, and Seattle decided to bite.  It worked out for the Mariners, at least in the short-term, as Leake put up a 2.53 ERA in five starts for them.

Of course, that also left an opening for a veteran innings-eater in the Cardinal rotation for 2018, but it’s likely whomever they get for that spot will wind up better than Leake was trending.  Leake probably did better in St. Louis than people think but the contract was looking more and more like an albatross.  And who better to take on an albatross than the Mariners?

Outlook: Given the good pitching park and a league that’s not as familiar with him, Leake may do fine for the Mariners in 2018.  It feels unlikely that he’ll do well enough that fans will be wishing Mo hadn’t pulled the trigger on that deal, though.

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