Exit Interview 2021: Wade LeBlanc

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: Wade LeBlanc

Season stats: 0-1, 3.51 ERA, 12 G, 42.1 IP, 45 H, 7 HR, 16 BB, 23 K, 5.58 FIP, 1.441 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 0.5 bWAR, -0.1 fWAR

Statcast: .362 xwOBA, 8.8 barrel %, 87.8 exit velocity, 36.8 hard hit %. 13.1 K %, 7.7 BB %

Best Statcast category: Average Exit Velocity (72nd percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Fastball Velocity, K % (1st percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 3

Grade: A

Positives: Claimed off waivers from the Orioles and improved many traditional stats….gave up no runs in his first 4.1 innings as a Cardinal….got a boost pitching at Busch, posting a 3.09 ERA….never gave up more than three runs in an appearance wearing the birds on the bat….also posted a 3.09 ERA in July after posting a 3.27 ERA in June while everything was flaming out….was not significantly different as a starter or a reliever….had a .751 OPS against when he got two or less runs of support….kept third place hitters to a .629 OPS….batters hit .246 if they swung at the first pitch….they slashed .191/.216/.361 if they were behind in the count….had a .240 batting average against leading off innings….did well with no outs, giving up a .222/.258/.317 line….opposing hitters hit .222 with runners in scoring position….that dropped to .136 when there were two outs and RISP….gave up a .615 OPS in tied games….had an ERA under two in the third and sixth innings (minimum five innings pitched)….had a 2.65 ERA in the middle innings….allowed a .693 OPS from pitches 26-50….had a 2.79 ERA in 9.2 innings on four days’ rest.

Negatives: Only had one quality start, his next-to-last one….gave up three runs in two innings in his last start before winding up on the injured list, where he remained the rest of the year….three times gave up three runs in less than five innings….both righties and lefties hit over .280 against him….had a 5.06 ERA away from home….allowed a 1.037 OPS when getting six or more runs of support….leadoff hitters hit .400 with a 1.184 OPS….if batters took the first pitch they wound up with a .938 OPS….batters hit .333 on the first pitch….they had a 1.016 OPS when ahead in the count….gave up a 1.149 OPS when there was one out….five of his homers were given up when the game was within one run….had a 9.00 ERA in the first inning….three of his homers were allowed in the first 25 pitches….the Cubs hit .357/.500/.500 against him.

Overview: Honestly, until I got to writing this post, I had a pretty favorable view of Wade LeBlanc from his time in St. Louis.  When he came in, the pitching staff was in shambles and anyone who could get outs and not walk the whole stadium was treated as a conquering hero.  LeBlanc was playing with smoke and mirrors, it was true, especially given his low strikeout rates, but with a Gold Glove defense behind him you could be forgiven (I hope) for thinking he might have been a better pitcher than he was.  When you look at how low the strikeout rate was, how high the FIP was (which, granted, is somewhat connected), and how well batters actually did hit against him, it’s probably more reasonable to be glad that the magic tricks worked and then not press your luck for an encore.

Outlook: LeBlanc’s time in St. Louis might well get him another job somewhere in the major leagues, perhaps even with the Cardinals.  I don’t think they’d sign him to a major league contract (or, if they did, it would be a relatively small sum of money) but I could see them trying to bring him in as insurance given how much pitching they went through in 2021.  While in the right situation that wouldn’t bother me, it also won’t be a major tragedy if someone else wants to take a flyer on LeBlanc for next season.

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