Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Leake has already endured plenty in his four seasons as a member of the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff. Upon making the Opening Day roster in 2010, Leake has seen not only his team ride through some peaks and valleys, but his personal ride has as well. He’s been tabbed as the fifth starter and always having that bullseye on his back. You’re the supposed weak link among the starting staff and there will be a line of others wanting and thinking they can take your job.
His season is one hardly anyone saw coming as 2013 began. And let’s backtrack a little.
Recall how there was the once again the experiment with moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. If Chappy had stuck as a starter, that would have left the Reds with six starters. In many minds – including my own – Leake appeared to be the odd man out of the rotation. Well, we know what has occurred. Chapman would be placed back into the closer’s role and Leak would retain his spot. We might want to be glad he did.
As Leake takes to the mound today in an effort to claim the series from the St. Louis Cardinals – it would be the first series the Good Guys won against the Redbirds in 2013 – you can’t help but wonder what fuels the guy. You also ponder how much mentoring he has received from Bronson Arroyo.
In comparisons to his three previous seasons, no one can doubt that Mike Leake has played a huge role in the Reds being where there are. Sure, being in third place in the NL Central isn’t exactly where many of us thought the Reds would be at this time of the season, but imagine of there was no Mike Leake on this staff.
Here’s some numbers to consider…
Pitcher’s bWAR: 3.5, 9th in NL
ERA: 2.59, 6th in NL
Wins: 10, T9th in NL
All of those numbers will create talk. Case in point, if you look at fWAR, Leake has a 1.4. Teammates Homer Bailey (3.5) and Mat Latos (3.1) are solidly above him. Part of that is because Leake’s FIP of 3.98 and xFIP of 3.99 are second worst among the current Reds starting staff.
There are others “secondary stats” that would suggest that Leake hasn’t been as effective as some of may think.
That said, observe the 2012 and his current 2013 numbers…
H/9: 2012 – 10.1, 2013 – 8.4
HR/9: 2012 – 1.31, 2013 – 0.93
BAA: 2012 – .282, 2013 – .245
LOB%: 2012 – 71.0%, 2013 – 83.1% (best among qualified starters in NL)
To me, that last one sticks. Not permitting that runner to score once he reaches base can loom large. We’ve observed Leake wiggling out of those situations a few times as of late.
Of course we cannot predict what the remainder of 2013 and beyond will hold for Leake. One thing I do know is this.
Prior to 2014, someone, somewhere will attempt to write off this guy. And once again it is highly likely for us to see Leake rise above that and potential challenges from others and claim what he has rightfully taken.
A firm hold of a spot within the Reds starting rotation.