Mike Leake is the exact pitcher the Cardinals needed
It’s reasonable to turn heads in disappointment when reviewing Mike Leake‘s 5 year $80 million deal. He has a career 3.88 ERA, he averaged 5.6 strikeouts/nine innings last year, and there is nothing about him that particularly stands out.
But diving deeper, the signing of Leake was the perfect move for the Cardinals. With Lance Lynn out for the season, the Cardinals needed another starter, and their options were through free agency or through a trade. In signing Leake, they didn’t have to get rid of any players. There’s + number one. Over the past six seasons Leake has started 172 games (~29 per year). There’s + number two. Leake, despite briefly playing for the Giants last year has spent his entire career with the Reds, meaning he is used to pitching against the Cubs and Pirates. There’s + number three. As far as pitchers come, Leake is also a stellar hitter, ranking (since 2010) fourth in pitcher home runs and third in pitcher batting wins above replacement. There’s + number four. Then Leake is also a great defensive pitcher. Since Leake came into the league he is ranked sixth in Defensive Runs Saved (at +27). There is + number five.
— STL Cardinals Fans (@SLCardinalsChat) January 24, 2016
Being so injury plagued last year, the chance to bring in a reliable pitcher like Leake is refreshing for the Cardinals. He even had a better WHIP (1.193) last year than John Lackey did. Last year (according to Fangraphs), Leake threw his hardest average fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup of his career, showing that despite all of his throwing over the past six years that he is not slowing down.
His 2 WAR as a pitcher, .5 WAR as a batter and other .5 WAR as a fielder puts Leake at 3 WAR, which, according to Fangraphs, would be worth $118 million over 5 years (and even at a 2.5 WAR $96 million).
Being able to bring in such a consistent pitcher with hidden skills that will be able to give the Cardinals 30 starts, and serve as a staple in the rotation is just another reason to be excited for the season to start.