The Arbitration File: Mike Leake


Mike Leake showed great improvement from 2012 to 2013.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Remember last year when Mike Leake avoided arbitration and inked a one-year, $3.06MM deal? Many within the Reds fanbase were none too pleased when he agreed on that deal. Considering his 2012 wasn’t viewed as being worthy of that dollar amount, he certainly lived up to those funds in 2013.

Leake earned that and a little more. What about for next season?

And Mike Leake get more. You can take that to the bank, as Leake enters his second year of arbitration eligibility.

MLB Trade Rumors has projected Leake to take home $5.9MM for the 2014 season. Of course, that’s provided Leake and the club cannot agree on a deal before the hearing. Keep in mind, the $5.9MM is an estimate, not a given.

So would Leake be worth the projected $5.9MM? Consider…

Leake is coming off a career year. He posted a record of 14-7, and ERA of 3.37 and a WHIP of 1.253. The ERA and WHIP are career lows while the win total is a career high. The win total also tied for tops on the squad. Yes, wins and ERA do get poo-pooed.

But there are other numbers that are favorable.

A career low HR/9 of 0.91 and HR/FB of 11.5%. This telling because we know all too well that Leake is prone to the long ball. He tossed five fewer home runs last season while pitching over 13 innings more than in 2012. Even with this, it should be no surprise that Leake was more effective away from GABP.

And what should we make of his career high strand rate of 77.7%? For qualified starters, that ranked second on the team (Bronson Arroyo: 77.9%). For 2012, that was 71.0%.

Leake also induced a career high 23 double plays. That helps the strand rate a bit, but it also helps that he posted the highest GB% (48.7%) among qualifieds on the staff. And that percentage was third overall (Marshall – 58.3%, Cueto – 50.9%).

Sure, Leake had his share of struggles in the season’s second half, particularly in August, but that won’t figure into what Leake will earn for 2014.

Will these improvements continue? We have this to punch into the equation. One of Leake’s mentors since making the roster has been Bronson Arroyo. It’s a foregone conclusion that there will be no Arroyo in a Reds uniform next season. Arroyo did not receive a qualifying offer from the team (no surprise there).

Could this absence affect Leake? This issue will most likely not surface during contract negotiations or a possible arbitration hearing, but I believe it is something to contemplate.

Based on 2013’s numbers, Leake would have been worth $8.1MM, according to Fangraphs and their conversion from fWAR to dollars. How’s that for value? $8.1MM worth of work for $3.06MM? Gotta like that. Here’s what’s funky…

Leake’s fWAR was 1.6. Look here…

Yovani Gallardo: fWAR of 1.7, 2013 salary of $7.75MM
Tim Lincecum: fWAR fo 1.6, 2013 salary of $22MM
Dan Haren: fWAR of 1.5, 2013 salary of $13MM

Granted, Leake doesn’t have neither the time nor the “credentials” as these three. No one would dare say that’s the case. I simply find it odd that he was far and away a better value for last season than these three established pitchers. That’s all.

If we’re rewarding based on past performance, Leake is surely worth $5.9MM. While I do not believe he will get $5.9MM – which would almost double his salary – he will receive something not far off that number.

And he should.