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: Daniel Ponce de Leon
Season stats: 1-2, 3.70 ERA, 13 G, 48.2 IP, 36 H, 6 HR, 26 BB, 52 K, 4.41 FIP, 1.274 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 0.6 bWAR
Statcast: 6.5% barrel %, 87.9 exit velocity, 28.5% hard hit %, .290 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 3
Overall grade: B
Positives: Doubled the number of starts he made in the major leagues, going from four in 2018 to eight last year….threw six scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the Marlins….had three scoreless innings in his last appearance of the season….limited lefties to a .164/.313/.209 slash line….had a 2.57 ERA away from Busch and gave up a .183 BAA on the road….had a 11.6 K/9 rate outside of St. Louis….had a 2.16 ERA in the first half based on a .145/.245/.289 line….had a 2.93 ERA in June….batters hit just .170 against him when he was relieving….surrendered a .530 OPS when receiving two or fewer runs of support….hitters in the third through sixth position hit .179 against him….allowed a .441 OPS when batters swung at the first pitch….if they hit the first pitch, the OPS was .593….posted a .301 OPS when ahead in the count….did not give up a hit to the first batter he faced (though he walked three)….batters hit .135 against him with less than two outs….did not allow a run in the second, ninth, or extra innings….gave up a .587 OPS the first time through the lineup as a starter….batters hit .148 from the beginning of the game through pitch 25….had a 1.80 ERA against the Brewers….had a 0.93 ERA against the Diamondbacks, the team he pitched the most innings against….was 8-4 with a 2.88 ERA at Memphis.
Negatives: Was in the bottom 7% of the league in walk rate….had a three start stretch in late July where he allowed 10 runs in nine innings….walked two more lefties than righties, even though right-handers took 37 more plate appearances against him….had a 4.55 ERA at Busch Stadium….had a 5.32 ERA in the second half and walked four more in 1.1 innings less….batters had a .761 OPS against him in September….walked 11 in 20.1 July innings….had a 4.15 ERA as a starter….his K/BB rate as a starter was 1.63….did worse with more run support, giving up a .310 average, walking more than he struck out, and posting a 5.06 ERA with six or more runs of support….third-place hitters had a 1.019 OPS against him….gave up a .333/.400/.524 line with two outs in an inning….batters hit .409 with two outs and runners in scoring position….had a 7.36 ERA in the fourth inning….when he threw over 75 pitches, batters hit .333 with two homers….had a 6.00 ERA on four days’ rest….had a 5.68 ERA in two day games.
Overview: I honestly am not sure what to make of Ponce de Leon. I feel like he could be a serviceable back end of the rotation starter, but when given a chance for a regular turn in the rotation, things got ugly. Is he a Quad-A pitcher? Feels like he’s more than that, but maybe not much more. In an organization that has been blessed with loads of pitching options, Ponce feels kinda meh even though he had contributed to the team and done so well at times. When Michael Wacha struggled early, he took over and did OK for a bit until, well, you saw that stretch above.
The team didn’t use him much at all in September, perhaps holding him out as that long relief guy that hardly is ever needed. He started on September 1, then relieved on September 7 and didn’t pitch again until the 19 inning game in Arizona at the end of the month. There were times that seemed to make sense for him to get an appearance but he didn’t, which was a little odd even given the push to the division title and the extra arms that were in the pen. Perhaps, like Tyler O’Neill, that’s telling of Ponce de Leon’s place in the organization, perhaps he was dealing with a little injury (which I believe was at least part of it according to public reports), or perhaps it was just a coincidence. Whatever the case, it was an odd ending to a fairly good season for the hurler.
Outlook: With Carlos Martinez moving back into the rotation, it would seem the starting five is fairly full. However, Ponce de Leon probably will be helpful either as a bullpen piece or as a starter in Memphis again, as he has one last option year that the club can exercise. If he does make it on the regular roster, hopefully the club can figure out how to use him and not leave him sitting for long periods of time on the shelf.