Exit Interview 2019: Miles Mikolas

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: Miles Mikolas

Season stats: 9-14, 4.16 ERA, 32 G, 184 IP, 193 H, 27 HR, 32 BB, 144 K, 4.27 FIP, 1.223 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 1.8 bWAR

Statcast: 6.3% barrel %, 87.8 exit velocity, 36.3% hard hit %, .328 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Hero 4, Goat 10

Overall grade: B-

Positives: Once again was in the top 3% of the league in walk rate….had a 1.50 ERA in three postseason games….threw a shutout at Pittsburgh on July 15, one of three games this season where he wasn’t charged with any runs….righties hit .261 against him but he allowed 16 of his 27 homers to them….allowed a .674 OPS at home….had a 3.01 ERA at Busch….was stronger in the second half, putting up a 3.72 ERA….bolstered by that shutout, had a 2.93 ERA in July….had a 3.34 ERA in September as the Cardinals fought for the division title….was dominant in games he won, putting up a 1.98 ERA in those nine games….allowed a .654 OPS when he had six or more runs of support….fifth place hitters had a .238 BA and a .717 OPS….if batters took the first pitch they wound up with a .703 OPS….limited hitters to a .245 average when he was ahead in the count….usually started the game off right, giving up a .214/.313/.357 line to the first batter he faced….gave up a .696 OPS in low leverage situations….had a 2.89 ERA in the sixth inning….was strongest in the middle innings overall, putting up a 3.66 ERA and allowing a .748 OPS in innings four through six….his OPS against dropped as the game went on, reaching .718 between pitches 76 and 100….had a 1.85 ERA against the Cubs, even though they hit .273 against him….allowed a .247 batting average in day games.

Negatives: Lefties hit .284 against him….had a 5.40 ERA away from Busch, inflated a bit by a seven-run, 1.1 inning outing in Texas….had a 4.53 ERA in the first half….started the season on the wrong foot, posting a 5.29 ERA in April….also had a 5.72 ERA in August….allowed an .805 OPS when he got two runs or less of support….third-place hitters reached him for a 1.031 OPS….when swinging at the first pitch, batters fashioned a .879 OPS….when they hit the first pitch, they managed eight homers and a .378/.394/.554 line….batters had an .881 OPS when they were ahead in the count….allowed an .855 OPS with runners in scoring position….gave up six of his homers with two outs and RISP….gave up a .980 OPS in late and close situations….batters had a .292/.337/.573 line in high leverage situations….had a 6.32 ERA in the second inning, though a good chunk of that was the Texas game….had a 5.53 ERA on five days’ rest….gave up a 4.91 ERA to Milwaukee, even though they hit .209 against him….batters hit .285 against him in night games.

Overview: Mikolas received a four-year extension in spring training that starts next year, so he’ll be here for a while.  (For some reason, I had it in mind that it started in 2019, replacing his old deal, but that’s wrong.)  While the price isn’t terrible at $15.75 million per (the rest was a signing bonus), you do wonder if this was another perhaps hasty extension.  Mikolas had the benefit of being new to the league in 2018 and rewarding him before you knew whether he could repeat the feat seemed a little dicey.  If Mikolas was coming up as a free agent right now, would the Cardinals want to resign him?  Probably, given that even if he left an opening in the rotation they wouldn’t fill it with Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg (though it would be less defensible that the front office WOULDN’T go after those guys if there was said hole).  I guess we’ll see what Zach Wheeler will get this offseason, given they put up similar stats last year (though Wheeler is younger) and maybe get an idea of what Mikolas’s market would have been.

However, if this is more the Mikolas we get over the next four years (his Age 31-34 seasons), then it’s probably not a bad deal.  Mikolas allowed a lot more home runs this year but find a pitcher in baseball that didn’t and I’ll show you a guy that got a lot of starts against the Cardinals.  If he’s able to do a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark, somewhere between the 0.7 HR/FB rate he had in 2018 and the 1.3 he had last year, his overall numbers will probably work out a lot better.  He’s kept his walk rate down, which is vital given the lack of strikeouts in his game.  The hits are going to come, it’s just whether he can work around them.  He stepped up in the playoffs, which is a big thing, and he’ll be a solid mid-rotation starter going forward most likely, which does have value.

Outlook: It doesn’t seem like Mikolas is going to be as great as he was in 2018.  2019, with the uptick in homers, was probably a bit of an outlier as well.  If Carlos Martinez returns to the rotation at the level we expect from him, Mikolas is going to be the third starter for St. Louis and be better than many of the third starters around the league.  It feels like Mikolas fits well in the Cardinals family and 2020, maybe 2021 shouldn’t be too much of a concern with him.  We’ll see about the last two years of the deal, but that’s down the road.  Let’s hold off on that for right now.

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