Exit Interview 2019: Dominic Leone

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: Dominic Leone

Season stats: 1-0, 1 SV, 5.53 ERA, 40 G, 40.2 IP, 39 H, 9 HR, 22 BB, 46 K, 5.45 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, -0.4 bWAR

Statcast: 12.5% barrel %, 89.6 exit velocity, 38.7% hard hit %, .368 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Goat 1

Overall grade: D

Positives: Five of his seven September appearances were scoreless and one other had no earned runs….10 of his first 11 outings were also scoreless….had a K/BB rate over 3 at Busch….had a 2.77 ERA in the second half….earned his win and put up a 0.00 ERA in 4.2 August innings….fifth place hitters slashed .053/.143/.211….batters hit .205 if they took the first pitch….limited hitters to a .278 OPS when he was ahead in the count….allowed a .558 OPS with one out in an inning….batters had a .258 OPS in late and close situations….gave up a .176 BAA in medium leverage situations….in six games with no rest, allowed a .059/.273/.059 line….had a 0.00 ERA in 7.2 innings against Milwaukee….had a 2.84 ERA at Memphis and struck out 42 in 31.2 innings there.

Negatives: Twice allowed six runs in an outing….11 times he was charged with at least a run and only three times was it a solo tally….righties hit six home runs against him in less than 90 AB….had an ERA over 5 both at home and on the road….had a 6.83 ERA in the first half….had a 9.00 ERA in May….leadoff hitters had a .357/.500/.571 line against him….ninth place hitters: .300/.391/.900 with four homers in 23 plate appearance….batters had a 1.261 OPS on the first pitch….even if they just swung at the first pitch, they wound up with a .995 OPS….if the batter was ahead or if the count was even, the OPS was over 1.000….batters hit .308 if they led off an inning against him….with two outs, hitters wound up slashing .320/.452/.620….with runners in scoring position, the OPS was 1.090….five of his nine homers came with runners on….honestly, I can’t fathom this: with two outs and RISP, the line was .526/.625/1.211 for an OPS of 1.836 (in 24 plate appearances)….high leverage OPS against was 1.056….had an upper limit, obviously, because after 25 pitches he allowed a 1.375 OPS (12 PA)….on three days’ rest, .400/.464/.680….had a 1.077 OPS on one day of rest, which is when he threw the most innings….allowed a .302 BAA on ground balls….the Cubs had a 27.00 ERA and a 1.627 OPS against him.

Overview: I’ve dug into the splits for years now and I don’t know if I’ve seen numbers this rough without it being like four at bats or some other small sample. It feels like Leone can be really good but if he’s not completely on his game, things are going to go south in a hurry.  I mean, look at that two outs and runners in scoring position number again.  I mean, how does that even happen?  You’d think just by luck it’d be under .500 for the batting average.  Leone, who as you likely remember came over in the Randal Grichuk trade, has flashed some ability over the last two years.  Last year, there were some injury issues that let you believe that he could be better.  In 2019, that’s not as much of an option.

Given the fact that he had options, he was one that rode the Memphis shuttle a few times.  He seemed to put it together well at AAA, doing very well from June to August there in between his trips to the big leagues.  And, as noted, he could turn in some good performances on the MLB stage as well.  Those good ones didn’t come close to outweighing the meltdowns, though.  It can’t be very often a reliever gets six runs put on his line in multiple games.

Outlook: Leone feels like a really strong DFA possibility, letting the Cardinals free up some room for protecting players from the Rule 5 draft as well as any free agents that they may need to sign.  (There probably won’t be many of the latter.)  Leone’s up for arbitration this year but, as you can tell, that’s probably not a battle he can win.  The flexibility he’s brought to the team is gone now as he is out of options.  The numbers don’t indicate that he’s going to be able to provide enough major league benefit to keep him on the roster this winter.  If he does somehow survive, he’ll go into spring trying to find a place in that bullpen but also being on the edge of being moved should they need the spot or if he just can’t be trusted with a big league job. (UPDATE AFTER PREPARING: Leone was cut to free up a 40-man spot.)

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