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: Austin Gomber
Season stats: 1-1, 1.86 ERA, 14 G, 29 IP, 19 H, 1 HR, 15 BB, 27 K, 3.54 FIP, 1.172 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 0.7 bWAR
Postseason stats: 0.00 ERA, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 2.250 WHIP
Statcast: 2.7% barrel %, 90.0 exit velocity, 33.3% hard hit %, .299 xwOBA
Best Statcast category: Barrel Percentage (96th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Exit Velocity (20th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Goat 1
On COVID IL: Yes
Overview: Austin Gomber hasn’t had the easiest road to proving he can be a major leaguer, but most likely the final steps in that road happened in 2020. After dealing with elbow and shoulder issues in 2019, he was able to grab a spot on the roster this year and not relinquish it, even though he was one of the few that actually contracted COVID-19.
Gomber’s season wasn’t quite as gaudy as that ERA would lead you to believe (that’s a healthy gap from his FIP) but he still was one of the more reliable arms that the Cardinals had, even if they had to keep finding different ways to use him. He started four games. He finished two. He pitched in every inning except the ninth (the two games he finished were double-header games). No matter the situation, Gomber delivered. He gave up a total of six runs on the season and four of them came in a rough 1.2 inning outing against Pittsburgh. Without that game, he’d have had an ERA of 0.66. He stranded five of seven inherited runners, so he wasn’t causing problems for other pitcher lines either.
He ended the year with two starts that saw him give up a combined one run over 10 innings. His command is still a bit shaky, as evidenced by his 4.7 BB/9 rate. It probably is worth noting, however, that nine of his walks came when he was a reliever. If that command is more tied to coming in with runners on or not being fully in a rhythm, being more of a starter could be a big deal for him. There was no real significant difference between facing right-handers and facing left-handers, which is one of the reasons he slid into the rotation when there was a need, most notably at the end of the year when Dakota Hudson went down with injury.
Outlook: Hudson’s Tommy John surgery, even if there aren’t any other moves by the team, frees up one spot in the rotation. While Daniel Ponce de Leon is likely to bid for it as well, it would feel like it is Gomber’s spot to lose. His effectiveness in starting, plus the added benefit of him being left-handed, should be enough to push him into the rotation and likely be a very solid part of it next season, even if his ERA will be something a little more reasonable.