As he waved toward the bench, it was clear there was something not right with staff ace Johnny Cueto. He had only thrown six pitches and was attempting to pitch through the pain, but it got to the point where he could no longer go. It’s Game 2 of the NLDS and “the guy” on the Reds starting staff is having to be removed.
What would Dusty do now?
Well, Dusty made possibly his best decision of all of 2012 (I hear your snark) and summoned Sam LeCure. Sure, he could of thrust Game 3 starter Mat Latos head first into the situation, but Baker chose a different approach. By choosing this route, it would provide Latos a better opportunity to properly warm up and not feel as rushed. Worked out pretty good, didn’t it?
For that game, anyway.
That game might be the one game we can single out as “the game” for LeCure in the 2012 season. And I don’t think I’m going too far here in saying that it could be the game of his short career either. Think of the entire set of circumstances where LeCure entered that game.
Being called upon to be the bridge between the staff’s two best pitchers, Cueto and Latos. You’re “filling in” for a guy that has been touted as a Cy Young candidate. Many a television is now focusing in on you as you stride toward the mound and begin to warm up. What could have made the situation even more daunting was the Giants had Matt Cain going for them. Cain was pretty stellar at home during the 2012 season.
Did Sam ever pitch. Sure, he allowed a hit and a pair of walks, but none of the three runners scored. LeCure would be awarded the W by the official scorer as the bats supplied him with two runs in the top of the 3rd inning (right before LeCure would be lifted for Latos), and as the Reds won that game by a 5-2 margin, it became even more obvious to me.
Put Sam LeCure in any game situation and he will more times than not, succeed. Just give him the ball.
For all the accolades we heaped onto Alfredo Simon for his 2012 season (which was a good season), some of us may have forgotten about LeCure.
Well, Dusty hasn’t. Over the past two seasons, Baker had put LeCure into practically every game situation except that of the role of a true closer. He’s done everything else: started, long relief, get one guy out to get the Reds to the next guy in line from the ‘pen, an inning here and an inning there.
2012 was the first time LeCure had not been pressed into starting a game for Cincinnati. Considering the way Reds starters were able to go this past season, why would he? It was possibly considered on that day when Todd Redmond had to start due to a doubleheader, but as I have noticed (and possibly you have as well), LeCure has his niche with this team. Why disrupt it?
Having the ability to focus entirely being a bullpen guy, LeCure blossomed this past season. Some of his numbers might not blow you away. He did allow more hits and issued more walks this past season. He increased his strikeout rate and allowed home runs at less than twice this season (0.5) than the rate he did in 2011 (1.2).
But here’s some numbers that will blow you away.
This past season, Sam LeCure was a pretty awesome pitcher at Great American Ball Park.
It doesn’t stop there. Go back to where I stated Dusty will pitch LeCure in any situation. Why is that? Two things here.
First, LeCure doesn’t allow inherited runners to score. For 2011, only 18% (5 of 28) crossed the plate. That was even better in 2012 as only 16% (5 of 31) inherited runners scored. If there’s a threat, LeCure possesses the ability to squash it. He won’t do it with a 95+ MPH fastball (his average is around 90 depending on the website you’re using as your source), but with his curve and slider, his two most effective pitches.
Second, Baker used LeCure in more high-leverage situations in 2012 (13) than in 2011 (5); thus, displaying his trust of LeCure in those situations. Baker’s willingness to bring LeCure into more games where the Reds were either ahead (14) or tied (11) than in 2011 (10 and 3, respectively) shows the developing trust, too.
That’s pretty good stuff on the high leverage line, isn’t it?
If you’re one that puts a high measure of stock into WAR (wins above replacement), well, LeCure’s 2012 WAR of 0.9 on Baseball Reference trumps those of Jose Arredondo (0.7), Mike Leake (0.6) and Logan Ondrusek (0.6). J.J. Hoover and Alfredo Simon equaled the 0.9 WAR LeCure posted.
One last thing. Among all Reds pitchers, LeCure posted the second lowest BAA of .221. I think we all know who led the Reds in that stat. For the record, the NL average was .255. His OPS against (.627) was third best behind Sean Marshall (.597) and Aroldis Chapman (.450) with a league average of .722.
Have to add this, too. LeCure is currently a participant in Movember, an initiative to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. Sam needs your help. Head here in order to make a donation. As Sam has posted on his Movember page, for every $20 in donations you make, you will receive one entry into a drawing for a guitar that has been autographed by every member of the Reds 2012 Opening Day Roster.
Not a lot to dislike about LeCure, on and off the field.
In fact, you gotta love him.