Exit Interview 2019: Jack Flaherty

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.

If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez.  Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site.  My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast.  It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug.  So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!

Player: Jack Flaherty

Season stats: 11-8, 2.75 ERA, 33 G, 196.1 IP, 135 H, 25 HR, 55 BB, 231 K, 3.46 FIP, 0.968 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, 5.9 bWAR

Statcast: 6.9% barrel %, 86.1 exit velocity, 30.3% hard hit %, .278 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Hero 13, Goat 5

Overall grade: A

Positives: Had what looks to be his breakthrough season, which put him on the fringes of Cy Young consideration….led the league in WHIP and hits per nine innings….righties hit .182 with a .566 OPS against him….allowed a .524 OPS at home….had a 2.37 ERA at Busch Stadium along with a 0.791 WHIP….was incredible in the second half: 0.91 ERA, .142/.208/.217 slash line against….allowed just five home runs after the All-Star Break….gave up as many earned runs in the second half (10) as the Cardinals scored for him in the first inning of his second NLDS start….batters SLUGGED .174 against him in September….allowed a sub-.200 BAA in four of the six months….had a 0.71 ERA in August….did the most with the least, allowing a .470 OPS when he got 0-2 runs of support….had a 1.79 ERA in those situations….cleanup hitters hit .177 against him….if batters took the first pitch they wound up hitting .187….batters had a .380 OPS when he got two strikes on them….batters hit .144 when they were behind in the count….batters had a .583 OPS when they led off an inning, though six of his homers were allowed then….allowed a .672 OPS with runners in scoring position….batters hit .109 when there were two outs and runners on second, third, or both….they hit .165 against him in a tie game….was better the more it counted, having a .569 OPS in high-leverage situations….batters had a .399 OPS the first time around in a game….in the 26 plate appearances after throwing 100 pitches, batters slashed .043/.154/.043….had a 2.48 ERA against the Cubs.

Negatives: Scuffled a little bit in the playoffs, including allowing four runs in four innings in his only NLCS start….had a 3.13 ERA and allowed a .654 OPS away from Busch….had a 4.64 ERA in the first half and averaged just 5.1 innings per start….allowed 20 of his 25 home runs in the first half….had a 7.01 ERA in June….third-place hitters hit .321, had seven homers, and managed a 1.019 OPS against him….batters hit .300 with a .920 OPS on the first pitch….gave up two doubles and a homer on 0-2 counts….allowed a .317/.366/683 line when there were no strikes on the batter….had a 4.13 ERA in the third inning and a 5.90 ERA in the fifth….seven of his homers came between pitches 75 and 100, when batters had a .779 OPS….didn’t need too much rest, as he was 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in seven starts with six or more days of rest….got beat up by the Brewers, allowing a 6.48 ERA in five starts against them….most of that damage was done in Miller Park (7.62 ERA, 1.054 OPS).

Overview: Forget leaving your heart in San Francisco–Jack Flaherty found something out there.  After coming up with big expectations, 2018 was a good but inconsistent year and 2019 was going along the same path.  Then Flaherty took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Giants in Oracle Park during his last start of the first half and that seemingly was when he turned the corner.  In the second half he put up numbers that were perhaps even better than Bob Gibson at his peak.  It was the most dominating run of pitching that many of us have ever seen.  I mean, when you give up less than a run over the entire second half, that’s saying a lot, right?

While this is extreme, it’s more in line with what everyone has thought Flaherty could be.  While there’s been a lot of focus on Alex Reyes over the past three years, it feels more like Flaherty is going to take the baton and extend the through line from Darryl Kile to Matt Morris to Chris Carpenter to Adam Wainwright.  It’s been a bit since the Cardinals had a starter that could be mentioned in the same breath as very top level of pitchers in baseball.  Flaherty has the chance to be that–or even be at the top of the heap.

Outlook: There’s no drama about Opening Day 2020, as we know that Flaherty will have the ball when the Cards start their season in Cincinnati.  We will have to temper ourselves somewhat–he’s not going to be as dominant over the entire season as he was in the second half last year–but the thought of having a top-of-the-line ace is intoxicating and will make every fifth day must watch baseball.  Flaherty wasn’t a finalist for the Cy Young this year but it seems only a matter of time before he’s in that conversation and, hopefully, taking that trophy home.

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