Of all the Cardinals starting pitchers, Jack Flaherty has the highest upside. His stuff, especially his slider, can be dominant at times. Case in point, he allowed just 2 and 3 hits, respectively, in his last two starts covering 7 innings in each with just one run allowed.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals lost both, scoring 1 run total across the two games. It’s not an isolated incident. The way that Flaherty pitches has become largely irrelevant in regards to wins and losses.
Since the beginning of the 2018 season, covering 47 starts, Flaherty has done the following:
- Posted a 3.78 ERA.
- Opponent slash line of .213/.293/.380.
- Struck out 28.4% of hitters.
- Holds a 4.15 FIP and 3.78 xFIP.
- Produced 18 Quality Starts, in which he carries a 1.54 ERA.
- Produced 31 starts in which he went 5 innings or more, allowing 3 runs (earned and unearned) or less.
He could be churning out a higher percentage of quality starts, certainly. That is a matter of going deeper into games.
However, the above numbers are solid to very good.
The Cardinals record in those 47 games?
That’s good (bad?) for a .382 winning percentage.
For some perspective on how ridiculous that is, consider that in 2016 and 2017 Adam Wainwright was, statistically, a bad starter. Among 67 pitchers to throw 300 innings or more during that time, he ranked 63rd with a 4.81 ERA, and 46th with a 4.2 fWAR.
During that time, the Cardinals went 37-20 in his 57 starts, good for an impressive .649 winning percentage.
It’s nearly the exact opposite of their success behind Flaherty.
Michael Wacha has been embattled this season, sporting a 5.54 ERA and has been jettisoned from the rotation on 2 separate occasions.
The Cardinals are 7-7 in Wacha’s 14 starts.
The Cardinals are 7-12 with Jack on the hill.
The team can manage a .500 record behind a pitcher with a -0.4 fWAR this year, but are 5 games under with an uber talented Flaherty, who stands at a 1.2 fWAR this season.
Based on Baseball-Reference game score, the Cardinals have lost all of Flaherty’s best 3 starts this season.
The second best game score of his career, 82, came on June 22, 2018. 13 K’s, 1 hit, 1 run, over 7 innings. The Cardinals lost 2-1.
I’m going to invent something called a “wasted start” which basically means the starter produced a game score of 60 or better and the team lost.
Since the start of last season, covering 209 starts, all non-Flaherty pitchers have combined for 15 wasted starts, Mikolas and Wainwright lead that group with 3 a piece.
Flaherty has had 7 wasted starts in that time, accounting for 32% of the team total despite making just 18% of the team’s starts.
They don’t score.
Checking the run totals in Jack’s last 47 starts, there were 4 in which the team blew up for 10+ runs. Removing those 4 outliers and averaging the run totals for the other 43 (91% of his starts), the Cardinals have produced an average of 3.46 runs per game.
3.46 runs per game…
The Marlins were the MLB’s worst run scoring team in 2018, and are again in 2019. They averaged 3.66 runs/game in 2018, and are at 3.65 this year.
So in 91% of Jack’s starts, the Cardinals’ average run production is worse than the 2018-19 Marlins, a glorified AAA team.
In the 31 games of 5+ and 3 runs or less, the team is just 14-17. In those 17 losses, they have scored 34 total runs, or 2 runs per game.
The Cardinals have been shut out an alarming 7 times this season.
Want something more alarming? 4 of those 7 shutouts came in games started by Mr. Jack Flaherty.
They have to do better than that.
I don’t offer a solution.
It’s a strange phenomenon that the Cardinals offense doesn’t produce in a large portion of Flaherty’s starts, going back to the beginning of last season. The only answer is for them to be better.
I don’t write this with some revelation, but rather just offer awareness.
Awareness that the Cardinals are wasting a very talented pitcher.
Yes, Flaherty has had his fair share of bad games, but with the number of quality innings he has thrown, there is no reason for this team to be 11 games under .500 when he starts over the last year and two-thirds.
Cardinals fans should be excited to see Jack Flaherty’s name as the probable starter. They should view him as the #2, at worst #3, starter and a pitcher that gives the team a good chance to win (which he does, better than 66% of the time).
Instead, if you see that Flaherty is starting, you should realize that the Cardinals have a 60% chance of losing that game.
It doesn’t matter how well Flaherty pitches, as his last two starts have shown. His line has become largely irrelevant, because the team doesn’t support his good performances.
It’s incredibly frustrating.
Thanks for reading