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: John Gant
Season stats: 11-1, 3 SV, 3.66 ERA, 64 G, 66.1 IP, 51 H, 4 HR, 34 BB, 60 K, 3.73 FIP, 1.281 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 0.7 bWAR
Statcast: 2.9% barrel %, 87.0 exit velocity, 31.2% hard hit %, .292 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 4
Overall grade: B
Positives: Was possibly the best and most reliable reliever in the early part of the season….his barrel percentage was in the top 2% of the league….batters hit .217 against him for the season….righties had a .570 OPS against him….was 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA and a .591 OPS against on the road….gave up a .172/.247/.258 line in the first half, good for a 2.22 ERA….had an ERA under 1 for April and batters hit .098 against him in the opening month….had a 12.1 K/9 rate in May….cleanup hitters hit .083 against him….batters had a .583 OPS when they took the first pitch….batters hit .198 when he was ahead in the count….they hit .194 when there were two outs in an inning….limited hitters to a .442 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position….batters hit .161 in high leverage situations and he did not allow a home run then….had a 1.83 ERA in the seventh inning….had a 1.56 ERA when he had three days of rest….Milwaukee had a .597 OPS against him….wound up third on the team in wins, tied with Jack Flaherty.
Negatives: His walk rate was in the bottom 11% of the league….imploded in the second half, putting up a 6.65 ERA and an .868 OPS against….had a 13.50 ERA the last four weeks of the season….had a 4.64 ERA at Busch Stadium….second-place hitters had a 1.101 OPS against him….batters hit .333 with a .917 OPS if they hit the first pitch….allowed a .263 BAA with runners in scoring position….had a 10.12 ERA in the ninth inning….was scored upon in three of his last five outings….was left off the postseason roster.
Overview: It’s hard to imagine anyone having such a tale of two seasons as Gant did. Early on in the season, he could do no wrong, Mike Shildt went to that well often in the first month, pitching him in 16 games (20 innings). While he eased up in May (9 games, 9.2 innings), you do wonder if that sort of usage on a guy that was used to being a starting pitcher might have created some fatigue. However, it’s also fair to wonder if that wasn’t just a fluke and what we saw the rest of the way was more of a regression to the mean. After all, he wound up with a similar ERA (though in many fewer innings) as he did the season before and his walk rate was about the same (his K rate was up a little bit).
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Gant was never going to have a sub-2 ERA and some of his strikeout prowess was overstated then as well, but getting into 16 of the team’s first 32 games was a clip that would wear down most anyone but especially someone that didn’t have extensive relief experience. However, he was good when the team really needed him, when the starters were having trouble going deep and the bullpen was the big reason they were 20-10. You have to give him credit and appreciation for that, at least.
Outlook: Gant’s eligible for arbitration, which makes him a potential non-tender candidate as well. Given his second half, you could imagine the Cardinals entertaining that idea, but my bet is that they’ll expect he’ll be fine after an offseason of rest and can give them some good innings next year, even if they aren’t quite as high leverage as some of the ones he had in 2019. The Cardinals could use solid arms and Gant’s proven he’s at least that. Most likely he’ll be in the mix for the middle innings next year but given that he is out of options, he always is going to be on the edge of being cut if the Cards need a 40-man spot if he doesn’t produce. Some pressure on Mr. Gant next year but if it bothers him, he’s not likely to tell the media about it.