Last night in San Francisco the Cincinnati Reds Mike Leake posted a career high in strikeouts as he sent 12 Giants back to the dugout with their bat in hand. The 12 strikeouts was easily a career best for Leake, who had never struck out more than eight batters in a single game in his career.
So, what was the big difference last night compared to what he usually does? The 2014 season has had velocity at an all time high for Leake. Last night his velocity was actually below his season average, so he wasn’t bringing more heat. When it comes to pitch usage, we do see a bit of a difference compared to what he had done in the last month. He threw the lowest number of fastballs and the highest rate of cutters and change ups.
The cutter was the eqaulizer for Leake on Thursday night. He used it more than he had almost all season and he got a swing and miss on the pitch a season high 21% of the time, and 35% of the time when guys actually swung the bat. He also had good swinging strike rates on both the slider and curveball. So he was certainly ahead of the hitters.
Where Leake also saw plenty of success, was pounding the strikezone. He avoided the top of the zone, but worked on the outside corners all night long, finding the middle of the zone just 12 times in 109 pitches.
Moving forward, will it continue? Probably not. Nothing really jumps out as something that would truly suggest a change in skillset. The velocity didn’t go up. There wasn’t a new pitch added. He simply just had it all working together for him on the night with a good mix, which he usually has, and outstanding location all night long.