Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
Player: John Gant
Season stats: 7-6, 3.47 ERA, 26 G, 114 IP, 91 H, 9 HR, 57 BB, 95 K, 4.07 FIP, 1.298 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 0.7 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 3
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Stepped into the rotation and made 19 starts due to various injuries….had the lowest HR/9 rate of his career….limited lefties to a .208 average, though six of the home runs allowed came from the port side….allowed a .207 BAA in Busch Stadium….went 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA during the August run….as a reliever, limited hitters to a .582 OPS and had a 2.70 ERA….did his best work with a lot of run support, going 2-0 with a 3.41 ERA and .601 OPS against when he got six or more runs of support….if batters took the first pitch, they wound up hitting .191….batters had a .481 OPS when he was ahead in the count….batters slashed .200/.277/.310 when there was nobody out….gave up a .531 OPS in high-leverage situations….was most effective in the second inning (1.42 ERA, .452 OPS)….batters hit just .191 the first time around….made two starts on three days’ rest and went 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA….had a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the Cubs….faced the Brewers four times (more than anyone else) and had a 2.84 ERA against them….had a 0.96 ERA in his seven wins.
Negatives: Had a 6.35 ERA in his last three starts and didn’t get more than an out in the fourth in any of them….twice gave up six runs in a start….five of his six losses came under the Arch….batters hit .240 against him in the second half….had a 5.40 ERA in six May appearances (three starts)….had a 3.61 ERA as a starter….third place hitters had a 1.013 OPS against him….batters had a .780 OPS if they swung at the first pitch….batters hit .310 with two home runs on the first pitch….when the batter was ahead in the count, they put up an .859 OPS….the highest OPS came with two outs, when batters had a .696 mark….gave up a .706 OPS with runners in scoring position….with two outs and RISP, the line was .283/.421/.500….only had 4.2 innings in the seventh, but he allowed a .318/.375/.682 line in them….three of his nine home runs allowed came in the first 25 pitches….had a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Pirates.
Overview: My Meet Me at Musial cohost Allen Medlock was big on Gant all season long and had plenty of reason to be on his bandwagon. Gant, who is really all the Cardinals have to show for the Jaime Garcia trade of December 2016, has often been thought of as a decent swingman but he proved to be more valuable than that over much of the season. He didn’t completely move into the starting rotation until the end of July, when Carlos Martinez went down again and then came back as a reliever, but moved back and forth between starting and relieving with no significant issues until that point. He had a 3.51 ERA starting with his July 29 start and that counted both of his six run spectacles. Gant bailed out a team that expected to have so much pitching that he was an unexciting afterthought. He became much, much more than that.
Outlook: Even with his success, you don’t really know what 2019 will bring for Gant. Martinez will be back in the rotation and Alex Reyes will likely be there at some point, so you wouldn’t expect to see him start save for an occasional fill-in. Gant can be an effective reliever, especially if there is going to be a need for a long man if Mike Shildt continues to be aggressive with his starters. Whatever the role, there’s a good chance Gant will provide above-average innings when he’s called upon.