Earlier today, starting pitcher Mike Leake signed a five-year $80 million contract, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He will now join a highly effective rotation in St. Louis that also includes Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia, and Michael Wacha. John Lackey created a hole after he signed with the Chicago Cubs; and balanced outfielder Jason Heyward, former Cardinal, followed in his footsteps when he signed with the division rival. The original plan to fill that hole was to sign Cy Young winner David Price, but they failed to do so after he signed a monster contract with the Red Sox.
Leake, who recently turned 28, is known to be a ground ball pitcher with a highly effective sinker. He doesn’t throw very hard, as his fastball hit an average velocity of 90.8 mph in 2015, but this doesn’t hurt him much as he mixes in 6 different pitches to the batters he faces. The most effective of the bunch, the sinker, is the key to his success and caused a 55% ground ball percentage in 2015. He also throws a pair of effective breaking balls in his slider and knuckle-curveball, which batters hit .151 and .176 respectively. He also throws a fastball, a cutter, and a change-up.
Leake’s numbers have been consistent since joining the league full time in 2010. Last year, he split his time in Cincinnati and San Francisco, where he pitched 3.70 ERA ball, and his FIP was right around his career average, at 4.20. Mike Leake does not strike out many batters, and relies on strong defence, which contributes to his higher FIP.
Some believe that Mike Leake is an odd choice. The Cardinals had weake infield defense in 2015, and Leake relies heavily on that factor. Also, a $16 million average annual salary seems like a hefty price for a middle rotation piece. Leake is no David Price, but he should be a solid consistent contributor to an outstanding Cardinals rotation.