No question that 2011 was an “adventurous” year for Mike Leake. He spent a short stint in Louisville, the first time he had seen minor league baseball. There was the Macy’s incident (ugh!). The end of his 2011 campaign brought about great optimism for his 2012.
The Reds first round selection from 2009 (8th overall) has done littler to deter Reds fans from not wanting more out of 2012. He showed a marked progression from 2010 to 2011. THere were the already noted snags along the way, but Leake has shown the one thing stats do not measure…tenacity.
Projections and stats
I’ve included both of Leake’s seasons on this table so that we can easily view the improvement from 2010 to 2011.
1. Innings increase
Even with that week in Louisville, Leake is still learning the art of pitching while also increasing his arm endurance. Barring injury, Leake should surpass the 167.2 innings from last season. To expect the percentage increase from 2010 to 2011 may be asking too much though. If that were so, he would be looking at over 200 innings. While that would show that a greater arm endurance and possibly maturation, you still have to build up to that magical 200 inning mark.
180-185 would do fine.
Just like with Bronson Arroyo, Leake will not make a mark as a strikeout pitcher even though he did lead the Reds in that stat last season. When you consider his K/BB ratio for his rookie season was 1.86 and for 2011 that increased to 3.11, you do have to take a pause and wonder if Leake’s learning curve may be even better than previously thought.
Consider that Leake pitched 29 more innings in 2011 and permitted 11 less walks, it all makes sense.
I know I already mentioned this at the onset, but Leake has quietly developed a mentality for which I don’t think he’s given enough credit. With all the hoopla that surrounded the Macy’s episode, Leake continued to pitch. That one incident should show us that, from a baseball sense, he continues to mature. More work to be done, make no mistake about it, but I think he “gets it”.
All you have to do is view Leake’s game logs to see that he was inconsistent. While you still expect some from a second year guy, you would like to see a touch more. He did have struggles in the season’s second half, but they were not as severe prior to being sent down.
2. Home runs
The only reason I bring this up is because I know that some will place a tag on him (insert Arroyo joke here)…and that’s a bit unfair. While Leake did allow 23 home runs in 2011 (19 in 2010), his HR/9 showed the slightest of decreases (1.24 to 1.23). His HR/FB% showed the increase (13.2% to 13.9%).
Don’t go putting all your stock into merely that HR number. You can live with them as long as it doesn’t develop into a dilemma.
In comparing his two seasons, Leake has kept his GB/FB fairly consistent (1.58 for ’10. 1.50 for ’11), but his LD% increased 2.7% while his GB% decreased 2.5%. In Leake’s defense, can you really expect on improving a GB% of 50.2%? That’s what it was for 2010. His GB% of 47.7% for 2011 would tickle any manager…and should have the same effect on fans.
It’s so difficult to project what a guy will do in his third season because there are different routes you can take. One is that he will perform to approximately the average of the first two seasons (an approach I think Bill James takes with Leake). Another is that there will be continued improvement; therefore, making the third season better than the first two. The other is the unfathomable drop from both seasons and incurring the wrath of an eventually disgruntled fanbase.
I do think Leake can step up again in 2011. He won’t face the pressures of earning a spot in the rotation as he has endured the past two springs. That should bring an air of relaxation in which I believe will propel Leake to an even better performance from his first two seasons. He can match the 12 wins of a season ago. I think he could see 14.
Or am I merely dreaming up this stuff?