Exit Interview 2020: John Gant

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: John Gant

Season stats: 0-3, 2.40 ERA, 17 G, 15 IP, 9 H, 7 BB, 18 K, 2.19 FIP, 1.067 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 0.2 bWAR

Postseason stats: DNP

Statcast: 2.8% barrel %, 89.0 exit velocity, 47.2% hard hit %, .257 xwOBA

Best Statcast category: Barrel Percentage (98th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: K % (48th percentile)

Hero/Goat: None


Overview: The knock on bloggers and podcasters often is that whey they get something wrong, they never mention it, preferring to move on or try to obscure their former position.  So let me state this clearly and for the record: I was wrong about John Gant.  Gant’s slide through the second half of 2019 made me believe that the first part of the season was a bit of overachieving.  I thought that the Cardinals would probably non-tender him in the winter rather than trying to give him a contract and if he did come back he would be one of the easiest decisions to make when a roster spot was needed.

I’ve been doing this for 13-plus years, so you know by now I’m not expert, but that was a pretty spectacular fail.  Instead of being a liability for the Cardinals, Gant was one of the best relievers they had on staff.  He was strong against both left-handers and right-handers.  He didn’t give up a run away from Busch (which seems counterintuitive since Busch is probably the best pitcher’s park in the division).  He did get a little worse by OPS against each month, but even September was .522.  He saw plenty of time in high leverage situations and while his numbers in those situations were worse than his overall totals, they were still fairly acceptable marks.

Gant suffered a groin injury late in the season which kept him off the postseason roster.  While almost every reliever melted down in Game 2, you wonder if the Gant we saw during the season might have been able to stem the tide and help pull out a victory.  It’s hard to know–the Padres got to a lot of good arms that day–but having him available might have been the difference.

Outlook: While I was so wrong on Gant last season, I still am a bit hesitant about him going forward.  After all, it was just 15 innings and that didn’t allow for the league to adjust to him again.  That said, Gant has put up enough good results that he’s going to get the benefit of the doubt from now on.  He is arbitration eligible this winter and while it’s slightly possible the Cardinals, wanting to save money, will non-tender him, I would be very surprised if that happens.  Most likely they sign him to a one year deal and he’ll be back in the middle innings for 2021.

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