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Is Tonight Critical for Leake?

I’m going out on a limb here. I will say the vast majority of Reds fans have had their fill of Mike Leake’s struggles in 2012. That’s not a stretch, I know, but for Leake to rediscover his 2011 form is vital to the Reds to achieve the many goals set forth for this season…and going forward.

You don’t have to go too far into Leake’s 2012 stats to determine the issues.

His strikeouts are down and his walks are up. His current SO/BB ratio of 1.45 is less than half of his 2011 ratio of 3.11. His SO/9 of 4.5 is down from 6.3 of 2011. The BB/9 of 3.1 is up from his 2011 number of 2.0. We know Leake is far from your prototypical strikeout pitcher, but that stresses the limiting of the free passes.

But this isn’t the biggest discrepancy. That comes in hits allowed. At the end of last season, Leake posted a respectable H/9 of 8.5. So far in 2012, that has risen to 11.4, an increase of 34%.

We know Leake is prone to surrendering a home run or two. He was second on the staff last season and his HR/9 for 2011 was 1.2. This year that currently sits at 1.7.

More free passes, more hits, a higher rate of home runs allowed can only transfer into more losses.

Heading into Atlanta, we know the upcoming portion of the schedule would be brutal. Not only because of the records of the teams the Reds will face for the remainder of this week into next, it’s due to a couple of factors.

The next off day is not until the 31st of May. Skipping Leake any turns during this stretch will only increase the load on the other four pitchers. In turn, the rest periods for those other four starters will be lessened. Maybe there’s a possibility all four could handle the short rest, but there are still four months and a couple of weeks to go in the season.

I hear you. You can’t win a division in the early stages of a season, but you could lose it if you get too far behind in the standings. The bonus is that the Reds are not at that point as of now. You could say there is a little time to attempt to correct whatever ails Leake.

But how much time? Good question. There’s no defined answer for that question, but I’ll guess it’s not an extended length of time.

Another factor could be this. There isn’t exactly any pitcher in Louisville that’s been lighting up the International League. Here’s all the pitchers that have a start in Louisville this season.

Player W L ERA G GS CG IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/BB H/9
Jeff Francis 2 4 4.17 8 8 0 49.2 57 24 23 6 12 47 1.39 3.92 10.33
Sean Gallagher 2 3 6.08 8 8 0 40.0 40 27 27 6 21 29 1.53 1.38 9.00
Chad Reineke 1 2 3.96 7 7 0 38.2 50 20 17 1 13 24 1.63 1.85 11.64
Brett Tomko 0 4 3.55 7 7 0 38.0 39 15 15 2 18 32 1.50 1.78 9.24
Ron Mahay 1 0 4.50 14 1 0 18.0 21 10 9 0 10 16 1.72 1.60 10.50
Andrew Brackman 1 3 9.87 5 5 0 17.1 18 19 19 3 16 13 1.96 0.81 9.35
Pedro Villarreal 1 0 3.65 2 2 0 12.1 15 8 5 0 0 9 1.22 —- 10.95
Luis Atilano 0 1 15.43 1 1 0 2.1 5 4 4 0 2 0 3.00 0.00 19.31
Wirfin Obispo 0 0 4.50 1 1 0 2.0 3 1 1 0 1 1 2.00 1.00 13.50
TOTALS 8 17 4.95 53 40 0 218.1 248 128 120 18 93 171 1.56 1.84 10.22

Nothing overly impressive, but…

I will grant you that the above ERAs look more attractive than the 7.11 attached to Leake. So do a few of the WHIP numbers. Same for the H/9.

On the average, the Bats staff isn’t getting too far into games either. Only one starter with five or more starts is averaging over six innings per start: Jeff Francis.

Francis had himself a good spring. He arrived in Goodyear as a non-roster invitee and stuck around until the end of spring. He knew he was headed for Louisville prior to camp breaking. He knew his role.

If the front office were to fashion any type of “swap” of Leake for a Louisville starter, it would have to be Francis. That would necessitate an adjustment to the 40-man.

But would sending Leake to Louisville to receive more teachings from Ted Power be of benefit to him?

Most likely. After Leake’s demotion last season, he provided the Reds great cause for optimism heading into 2012. After that brief stint, Leake returned and went 9-7, but the Reds were 12-8 in those games. The ERA was 3.36, his WHIP was 1.12 and the SO/BB ratio was 3.44. Those same numbers in nine games (including a trio of relief appearances) prior to seeing the Bats clubhouse were: 5.70, 1.38 and 2.46.

He learned something. He either learned some things from Power or that he didn’t care for life in the minors. Or both.

I have previously pointed out that Leake’s 2012 has started in a complete reverse to his 2010 and 2011 seasons.

So I will now refer to the title of this. Is tonight critical for Leake?

Critical may not be the appropriate word to use here. I would say on a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being that critical point, tonight’s outing could rate as high as an 8, but I would also have it no lower than a 7. Therefore, my deductive math skills put it at a 7.5. Not quite critical, but definitely serious.

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Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds Mike Leake MLB

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