After signing a 5 year, $80 million contract this offseason, Mike Leake hasn’t exactly gotten off to a great start. However, after his last two outings, it seems he might be back on the right track.
Cardinals RHP Mike Leake’s superb performance yesterday in the Sunday night, primetime game prevented a series sweep from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Leake threw 6 innings of 1-run ball, limiting the Los Angeles offense to just a Corey Seager home run. It was the righty’s second straight strong outing after a treacherous start to the 2016 season that bottomed out with a 6.03 ERA on May 4th.
In his last start, Leake turned in 8 strong innings allowing just 1 run against the other Los Angeles team, the Angels. Both of Leake’s previous two outings have now produced more groundouts than fly outs (14-12 on 5/10, 10-3 on 5/15). For a sinker-baller such as Leake, these numbers are extremely promising.
Given the troubling struggles of the Cardinals other starters, Leake’s renaissance couldn’t have possibly come at a better time. The last quality start by a Cardinals pitcher came last Wednesday by Jaime Garcia in a 5-2 win over the Angels. With a worn-out bullpen, Leake’s performance was a welcome sight for the relievers Sunday evening.
While Leake can’t and shouldn’t be expected to continue his 1.29 ERA over his last two starts, he should at the very least look to chew up innings like he showed he could for the Reds and Giants in his career. 6 innings with 3 runs allowed is a reasonable expectation for Leake, and that sort of start should put the Cards in position to grab a win each and every time out.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) May 16, 2016
Now, what aspects of Leake’s performance should he look to continue in his future outings? From the looks of it, he’s been relying more on his off speed pitches instead of the reliable sinker. Leake’s usage of his sinker has gone from 51.79% of his pitches in April to 48.65% in May. On the other side, his slider, changeup, and curveball have all seen noticeable bumps in usage since last month according to BrooksBaseball.net. Clearly, it’s important for Leake to mix in his off speed offerings, especially in his second and third time through the lineup.
Obviously, expectations for Mike Leake were tempered when he was signed in the offseason. The aforementioned slow start to the season made some people begin to second-guess John Mozeliak. In reality, the real Mike Leake is somewhere in between who he was in April and who he’s been these last two starts, but pitching coach Derek Lilliquist should be able to work with him to point out what’s gone right and how he can improve as we get into the summer months.
Photo Captured by Robert Hanashiro – USA TODAY Sports