Tag: Mike Leake

Mike Leake Is Just What the Doctor Ordered for Cardinals’ Ailing Rotation

After a season in which their starting rotation led Major League Baseball with a 2.99 ERA, you’d think a starting pitcher would be the last thing the St. Louis Cardinals would need this winter.

But need one they did. And Tuesday, they found just the man for the job in Mike Leake.

News of Leake’s agreement with the Cardinals was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, who later reported the deal could cost the Cardinals nearly $100 million in the long run:

And there’s more! According to Rosenthal, Leake’s deal also includes a full no-trade clause. The Cardinals are giving the 28-year-old right-hander everything he could have asked for and then some.

Sounds like a deal that contradicts the claim that Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak made to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when he said the club was out on “dynamic signings” this winter. And for a guy like Leake, it’s arguably a bit much. He’s been a roughly league-average pitcher, so odds are he’s not going to elevate the Cardinals rotation to new heights.

But then, that’s not really the point. Rather than elevating their rotation to new heights, the Cardinals’ priority was to ensure it didn’t sink to unknown depths.

Said rotation was indeed quite good in 2015, but it’s been hit hard in recent months. This winter, it’s lost John Lackey to free agency and Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery. Those losses make the Cardinals rotation reliant on Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia. That’s a good foursome on paper, but Wainwright is old and the other three come with durability question marks.

With all this going on, the Cardinals rotation needed something solid. In Leake, they’ve found just that.

You know that point about Leake being a roughly league-average pitcher? That stems from one statistic in particular. The 3.88 ERA he’s compiled since entering the league in 2010 equates to a 101 ERA-plus, which is exactly one tick above the mark for average (100). 

But this isn’t necessarily an insult. Some guys give the term “league average” a good name. Leake is one of those guys.

Leake is nothing if not consistent, as he’s posted ERAs in the mid- to high-3.00s in four of five seasons and has averaged roughly 195 innings pitched over the last four seasons. Along the way, his strengths have stood out just as much as his faults.

Leake has one fault in particular, and it’s that he’s not overpowering. His average fastball is only about 90-91 mph, and that’s contributed to consistently below-average strikeout rates and average or worse home run rates.

But deception and command can make up for a lot, and Leake has both of those things in spades.

Brooks Baseball shows he has a varied pitch mix that doesn’t include anything straight—he threw exactly four four-seam fastballs in 2015—but that hasn’t stopped him from posting consistently below-average walk rates. Combined, these two skills form arguably his best talent: getting ground balls. With a career GB percent of 50.2, Leake gets plenty of those.

These talents make Leake something of a natural fit for the Cardinals rotation. It’s coming off a year in which it finished in the bottom half of MLB in walks and third in ground balls. Clearly, neither Yadier Molina nor the Cardinals infield will need to adjust for Leake.

For that matter, Leake himself shouldn’t need to do any adjusting.

Thanks to his five-plus seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, he’s no stranger to either the NL West or Busch Stadium. And after failing to make the most of his opportunity to pitch at a big-time pitcher’s park with the San Francisco Giants, he now has another chance to do so. Busch Stadium isn’t AT&T Park, but it’s definitely more friendly to pitchers than Great American Ball Park.

Even if Leake doesn’t get better with regular action at a pitcher’s park, the Cardinals will be happy if he at least stays on the mound. And that should happen.

Leake has been good for 30 starts and more than six innings per start over the last four seasons, and it’s fair to expect more of the same. With just his age-28 season due up in 2016, Leake is a few years short of the usual expiration date for starting pitchers. And though he did miss a good chunk of action with an injury in 2015, it was a hamstring injury. Generally, his arm and shoulder have behaved. 

In a nutshell, Leake is a safe investment for the Cardinals. Matthew Leach of MLB.com summed it up well:

If there’s one thing Leake’s signing doesn’t do, it’s change the power structure in the NL Central.

The Chicago Cubs still look like the class of the division after adding Lackey, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to a roster that won 97 games in 2015. The Cardinals may have been able to change that if they’d made good on their pursuit of David Price, but, well, they didn’t.

The Cardinals were, however, still very much in the picture even before they signed Leake. They’re even more in the picture after signing Leake. He’s not Price, but he’s just the kind of safety blanket that the Cardinals starting rotation needed. 

For a guy like that, at least $80 million and perhaps as much as $94 million doesn’t sound like such a bad price to pay after all.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Mike Leake to Cardinals: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

For the second time in less than a year, Mike Leake has found a new home, agreeing to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the deal, while Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported the agreement is for five years and $75 million with an option for $18 million in 2021. However, Rosenthal reported the agreement is worth $80 million with a mutual option that could increase the value to $93-94 million, adding that there is a full no-trade clause.

“One of the game’s most consistent performers,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said of Leake at his introductory press conference.

“His proven experience and all-around ability should be a real plus for us,” Mozeliak added.

“I always enjoyed facing him and now I’m going to enjoy learning from him,” Leake said of fellow starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.

The San Francisco Giants acquired the right-hander last summer from the Cincinnati Reds, getting no substantial value in return, as Leake had a 4.07 ERA in just 55.1 innings over nine starts.

Leake isn’t a game-changing starter who will be in the Cy Young mix, but he’s established himself as a strong innings-eater. The former first-round pick has made at least 30 starts covering at least 179 innings in each of the past four seasons. St. Louis especially needed to bolster its rotation after missing out on David Price, who went to the Boston Red Sox.

There are limitations to Leake’s game, as Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports pointed out after the Reds traded Leake to the Giants:

One of Leake’s other issues is that, since he doesn’t have exceptional swing and miss stuff, when he gets hit, he gets hit hard.

That can lead to some high home run totals. Some of those issues were due to Leake pitching in one of the friendlier hitter’s parks while he was in Cincinnati. According to Statcorner.com, Great American Ball Park has one of the highest home run park factors in the game.

Pitching to contact isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Leake keeps the ball on the ground, generating a 51.8 percent ground-ball rate in 2015, so pairing him with a strong infield defense will make him look even better.

Even though Leake wasn’t one of the marquee starting pitchers available this offseason, he’s one of the most valuable because he takes the ball every fifth day, throws five or six solid innings and gives the team a chance to win.

In this era of advanced metrics and analysis, Leake doesn’t check all of the boxes, but he hits enough to be a terrific asset moving forward. The Cardinals will be thrilled to have the right-hander in the rotation as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter for the next few years.

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Mike Leake: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation on Free-Agent SP

With the free-agent pitching crop thinning out at the top, a valuable second-tier starter such as Mike Leake may see his market pick up heading into the winter meetings. 

Continue for updates.

Cardinals Connected to Leake

Saturday, Dec. 5

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Cardinals are interested in bringing Leake back to the NL Central.

Dodgers Reportedly Contacted Leake

Saturday, Dec. 5 

The Los Angeles Dodgers are believed to have “touched base” with Leake, per Heyman.

Giants Remain Interested in Leake

Saturday, Dec. 5 

Despite landing Jeff Samardzija, the Giants are still interested in signing Leake, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. 

D-Backs Reportedly Offered Leake

Friday, Dec. 4

Scout.com’s Max Wildstein reported Leake was offered a five-year contract, but it is unknown if that deal remains on the table after the signing of Zack Greinke. Rosenthal reported the team is still interested in Leake, despite its suddenly revamped rotation.

According to Rosenthal, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa met with Leake Thursday. 

The Diamondbacks have been an unusual team over the last 12 months. They essentially sold one of their top pitching prospects, Touki Toussaint, to Atlanta in June when the Braves agreed to take on Bronson Arroyo’s salary.

One reason why Arizona can afford to play in deeper financial waters is a new television deal that will pay the club at least $1.5 billion over 20 years.

Leake has been a solid innings-eater throughout his career, making at least 30 starts covering at least 179 innings in each of the last four seasons. The 28-year-old isn’t an overpowering arm who will alter a rotation on his own, but as a No. 2 or No. 3 behind a proven ace, he’s a strong investment.

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MLB Playoff Picture: How Injuries Might Affect Postseason Standings

As Major League Baseball’s 2015 season winds down, injuries have a chance to affect the postseason standings.

Some clubs are counting on potential returns to spark their postseason push, while others face the reality of what a devastating injury means to their chances.

Can the New York Yankees capture the American League East if Mark Teixeira lands on the disabled list? Will Denard Span’s return give the struggling Washington Nationals a lift in the National League East?

Let’s take a look at a major injury from one team in each division and examine what it means for that particular club’s playoff hopes.


AL East

New York Yankees

The division race between the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays is the tightest in baseball. The Yankees lead the surging Blue Jays by one game.

Inconsistency has plagued the Yankees in August. The club is 5-5 in its last 10 games, but the offense put up 16 combined runs in back-to-back wins over the Minnesota Twins in a recent series.

The biggest question mark moving forward is the health of Teixeira. The All-Star first baseman fouled a ball off his leg and had to be removed from Monday’s game. 

Manager Joe Girardi told Mike Rose of Newsday that the injury is a bone bruise.

“He’s got a pretty good bone bruise,” Girardi said on Wednesday.

Rose noted that it doesn’t appear Teixeira can play through it.

“Girardi added that Teixeira is ‘not a whole lot better’ and couldn’t even pinch hit Wednesday if needed.”

Girardi told Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees blog that a trip to the DL isn’t out of the question.

It’s concerning. I was concerned when he did it right away because of where it hit. Forget the padding that you put on, but there’s no padding when you hit it off your shin. That’s straight bone. I was concerned last night.

Losing Teixeira for an extended period of time isn’t good for the team’s hopes of capturing a division title. The slugging first baseman leads the club with 31 home runs and 79 RBI.

With the Yankees playing the Blue Jays seven more times in September, getting Teixeira back quickly is important. The Blue Jays and Yankees have the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked offenses in baseball according to ESPN.

With Teixeira, the Yankees would have a tough time holding off the new-look Blue Jays. The club was swept by the Blue Jays in early August and was limited to just one run in three games. Add in that the Blue Jays are relatively healthy and on an 11-3 tear in August.

Without him, it’s difficult to imagine the Yankees winning enough games to capture the division title.


AL Central

Minnesota Twins

The AL Central race is essentially over. 

The second-place Twins trail the Kansas City Royals by 13.5 games, but the second wild-card spot is within reach.

The Twins trail by three games, but injuries are beginning to take a toll. The biggest question mark for the club entering 2015 was pitching. The Twins lost their best reliever and arguably their best starting pitcher in recent days.

Glen Perkins is dealing with a neck injury that’s reportedly been bothering the closer for nearly two months.

Derek Wetmore of 1500 ESPN reports that Perkins is scheduled to receive a cortisone shot in his neck prior to Wednesday’s game. 

He’s struggled recently and has allowed eight runs in his last nine appearances.

Phil Hughes landed on the 15-day DL with lower-back pain. 

The right-hander was pulled from his last start with the injury after giving up seven runs on nine hits in just three innings of work on Sunday.

Manager Paul Molitor told ESPN that he wasn’t aware of any discomfort prior to Hughes’ start.

“Quite transparently, I knew nothing,” said manager Paul Molitor. “And I don’t think that anybody thought anything was going on until he got out there on Tuesday.”

If the Twins hope to continue their postseason push, the pitching staff needs to step up. Rookie Tyler Duffey and reliever Trevor May are being promoted to the starting rotation and need to provide the Twins with solid performances. 

Even though the pitching staff improved immensely this season, the loss of Hughes and Perkins seems too much to overcome.


AL West

Houston Astros

The Astros are enjoying their best season in a decade.

There’s still plenty of work to do as the Los Angeles Angels trail by just 2.5 games. 

The offense has struggled over the Astros’ last 10 games and averages just 2.7 runs during that span. The club went 4-6 during that stretch.

Help is on the way in the form of George Springer. The outfielder has been on the DL since early July with a fractured wrist. 

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Springer played catch on Tuesday and is progressing in his rehab.

Springer told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle that he’s nearing a rehabilitation assignment.

I didn’t really know what to do, to be honest with you. I prepared myself for no and yes. I got told yes and it was just kind of a relief. It’s obviously been hard these last six weeks to not be able to play out there with these guys. I’m almost there.

The right fielder could return in late August or early September. His presence gives the Astros a powerful bat in their lineup. Houston leads the league in home runs and Springer offers another threat in that department. 

With seven games remaining against the Angels, Springer will likely be available for all of them if he continues progressing. With the way Houston is pitching and the offensive boost it will receive with Springer, the club should make the postseason.


NL East

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have slumped to become a .500 baseball team. The club is 4.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.

The offense continues to sputter without Span. The Nationals’ .248 batting average is six points below league average. Before Tuesday’s 15-6 win over the Colorado Rockies, the club lost six games in a row and showed no signs of busting out of its slump.

Span has been sidelined with a back injury since early July. He’s been on a rehab assignment with the organization’s minor league affiliates and could return in late August.

Before the injury, Span hit .304 with five home runs for the Nationals. 

Span told Fox Sports that he felt good following his latest rehab game.

I haven’t sprinted like that or reacted like that to a ball in a month, so it felt good considering I haven’t done anything like that in a month. My legs felt a little like Jell-O because I haven’t played in awhile. … But overall, a good day.

His return could provide the Nationals a spark. With Span, the Nationals are 35-24 but just 23-35 without the outfielder.

The team’s morale is low, but the Nationals still have a ton of talent, and the return of a key player can help turn things around. The club has struggled finding an ideal leadoff hitter during Span’s absence, but his return will solve those issues while helping to raise the team’s low batting average.

With the type of talent that’s on the roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if Span’s return sparks a September charge.


NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s unlikely the Pirates will catch the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, but the club continues trying to strengthen its grip on a wild-card spot.

The team boasts one of the best rotations in baseball and should benefit from the return of A.J. Burnett. The Pirates have the third-best ERA in the majors at 3.21.

Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that manager Clint Hurdle says that Burnett is feeling well and could return to the mound soon.

The 38-year-old has a 3.06 ERA in 21 starts. 

His return should boost an already superb rotation and give the Pirates an opportunity to win ballgames in the postseason.


NL West

San Francisco Giants

The Giants aren’t healthy. 

The club has multiple players missing from its starting rotation and lineup. The biggest might be Mike Leake, who the Giants acquired at the trade deadline this year.

Leake is dealing with a hamstring strain that’s cost him his last three starts. He was expected to rejoin the rotation on Tuesday, but soreness continues to keep him on the DL and he’s listed as day-to-day.

Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports that the club’s plan is to have him return this weekend against the Pirates.

“Each day it gets better,” Leake told Pavlovic. “It’s just not ready. You can only go as fast as your body lets you.”

Outfielder Hunter Pence was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a moderate oblique strain according to Pavlovic. He’s expected to miss a few weeks with the injury.

One could throw a dart at a list of names and find an injured player that’s important for the Giants’ postseason push. Yet Leake was acquired at the deadline in hopes of solidifying the rotation. The organization gave up young prospects for the pending free agent to help the club down the stretch. 

The Giants trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games and the final wild-card spot by three games. The return of Leake, among others, gives the Giants a strong chance of pushing past the Dodgers for the NL West title.


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Breaking Down Early Cincinnati Reds Trade-Deadline Rumors

With the July 31 MLB trade deadline just a month-and-a-half away, some Cincinnati Reds players are starting to find themselves involved in trade rumors.

Some of the rumors might have substance, but others are exactly what they are called—rumors. Fans love to discuss potential deals that their favorite teams may be involved in, but it’s up to the front offices to come up with deals that they feel are fair for their clubs.

Unfortunately for the Reds, injuries are hitting the team hard for the second year in a row. Every team has to deal with injuries, but not many have had to deal with the amount of key injuries that this club has suffered over the past two seasons. As a result of the injuries, the team has again put itself in a big hole.

Now, the front office must decide what to do with valuable trade chips like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman. Parting ways with players of that caliber might be tough for a team to do, but it may benefit the organization in the future.

Cincinnati is showing signs of life as of late. The team is playing well, despite a number of injuries to players such as Zack Cozart (knee) and Marlon Byrd (wrist). That makes trade-deadline decisions that much tougher. Eventually, a decision must be made.

Below is a breakdown of some of the current rumors floating around.


RHP Johnny Cueto

With their chances of re-signing Cueto after the season slim, it seems like the Reds will be in position to trade their ace at some point before the deadline.

If Cincinnati does indeed decide to trade the All-Star pitcher, it will have plenty of suitors to choose from.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that members from the San Francisco Giants organization were in attendance for Cueto’s last start against the Chicago Cubs, and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers all had scouts at the game as well.

Cueto, 29, is one of the best pitchers in the game. Obviously, he should be able to get the team a nice return in a trade. However, his value will be limited, given that he is signed only through the rest of the season.

The right-hander is making just $10 million this season. For a pitcher of his caliber, that is an absolute steal. But that salary is going to jump up next season after he signs a monster contract this wintera contract the Reds will not be able to afford. All of the teams reportedly scouting Cueto have been known to make big deals and would all be able to afford him with no problem.

That makes each of those teams an attractive trade partner to the Reds.

Cincinnati finds itself facing an interesting dilemma: It can trade Cueto for a decent return package, or it can hold on to its ace and get a draft pick when he leaves in free agency. Given the fact that teams won’t be willing to deal away their top prospects for maybe just a half-season’s worth of Cueto, taking the draft pick may not be a bad move for the Reds.

Again, should the Reds decide to deal Cueto, there will be plenty of teams interested. There are just nine teams in all of Major League Baseball that are not within five games of a playoff spot. With Cueto’s team-friendly contract, there aren’t many playoff contenders that wouldn’t be interested in his services.

The only problem is that the longer the Reds wait to make a trade, the less they will get for him. Knowing that and the possibility that he could get hurt, the team needs to be actively looking to deal the pitcher right now.


RHP Mike Leake

Cueto and Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels are going to be the most coveted starting pitchers on the market, but Leake isn’t going to be far behind.

The 27-year-old Leake has proved himself to be a consistent and reliable pitcher since debuting in 2010. The right-hander gives his team quality innings, and he doesn’t get hurt. Those are both things that teams want to see in a pitcher.

Rosenthal noted that Giants scouts were on hand to see Leake’s latest outing, and George A. King III of the New York Post reported that the Yankees had a scout in attendance as well.

The athletic pitcher may be better suited for the National League, given his stuff and ability to swing the bat (.227 career batting average). However, he wouldn’t have a problem pitching in the American League, as his 3.83 career interleague ERA (in 18 starts) shows.

Leake’s 2015 salary is comparable to Cueto’s at $9.775 million. That shows how much of a bargain Cueto is, but it also means that no contending team would have much of a problem taking on Leake’s contract for the remainder of the season. For a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher a team can rely on, Leake’s contract is reasonable.

Like Cueto, Leake is in the final year of his contract. That will limit his trade value as well.

Should the Reds decide to hold on to Leake and see what happens after the season, things could get interesting. Leake would be more affordable than Cueto, although CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the club never approached the former first-round draft pick about an extension last offseason. That could mean that the team doesn’t view Leake as a part of its future.

There’s no doubt that the Reds have plenty of young arms that they see as the future. Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson are all promising young pitchers who are much cheaper than Cueto and Leake. If those young arms continue to impress in the coming weeks, it could convince the front office to deal both of its veteran pitchers with expiring contracts.


All stats are via MLB.com.

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Cincinnati Reds: Making the Call on Top Trade Chips

Even if the Cincinnati Reds don’t get back into contention, they are going to be a team that has a big impact on the pennant race.

Why? Because the team has plenty of attractive trade chips.

The proverbial window appears to be closing on this Reds squad. Some of the key players are entering the final year(s) of their contracts, which will force the club to make some tough decisions. Keeping those players would certainly help the club stay relevant, but trading them would help the organization in the future.

The Castellini family has been determined to bring a championship to Cincinnati since buying the team nearly a decade ago. Ownership has done a great job of turning the franchise around, but now, it faces some crucial decisions that could affect the team for years to come.

With plenty of trade chips on the roster, Cincinnati has the ability to control the market come July. Keep reading to find out which players the Reds should deal and which they should keep.

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Projecting Cincinnati Reds’ 5-Man Rotation for 2014

Pitching has been the strength of the Cincinnati Reds the past few seasons, and stability in the rotation is the reason that the club is going to continue to contend.

Cincinnati’s rotation finished near the top of the majors in most of the major categories. Despite pitching in Great American Ball Park, the staff has found a way to get the job done.

There isn’t much to guess about when it comes to what the Reds rotation will look like in 2014. 

Whether or not the club was going to bring back Bronson Arroyo was the only question about the rotation heading into the offseason. It looks like the organization has made its decision, so keep reading to see what that decision is.

Starting pitching can win a championship, so let’s see who will be a part of the Cincinnati rotation in the upcoming season.


*All stats are via MLB.com.

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Mike Leake Has Answered His Critics with Great Start to Season

Despite the constant criticism from fans, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake has started the 2013 Major League Baseball season on fire.

Fans were disappointed with his 8-9 record and 4.58 ERA in 2012, but he has put last year behind him. 

This was the year that Aroldis Chapman was finally going to make the transition to the rotation, but plans changed and Leake kept his spot. When Tony Cingrani came up and had an electrifying run of starts, fans wanted him to replace Leake in the rotation. Instead, Leake turned his game up.

Since Cingrani arrived in Cincinnati earlier this season, Leake has allowed more than three earned runs only once. In the one game that he allowed four earned runs, he had held the Atlanta Braves to two runs through seven before being the victim of bad luck in the eighth.

During his five starts in May, he led the team with a 1.87 ERA. He went 3-1 in May and went through the best stretch of his career. He went 21 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run before allowing a home run to the final batter of his last start (game recap courtesy of ESPN.com) and 17.1 innings without allowing any runs.

Leake went at least seven innings in three of the starts. He has gone at least seven innings in five of his 10 starts in 2013.

The right-hander got off to a rough start to the season and allowed nine runs in 12 innings through his first two starts. He has allowed 14 runs—12 earned—in his last eight starts.

In a rotation that has every pitcher with an ERA below 3.40, nobody would have guessed who would be leading the starters in ERA. Leake‘s 3.02 ERA is the lowest of anyone on the team with at least 30 innings pitched. Even though Homer Bailey and Mat Latos have been great this year, Leake has allowed fewer earned runs than them.

Leake is currently averaging 6.46 strikeouts per nine innings, which is the best rate of his career. He has also induced 11 double plays this season—nobody else on the team has more than six. He has turned in an average of 16 double plays per season and has never had more than 19, but he is on pace to easily top those numbers. 

Fans seem to forget that Leake is the No. 5 starter, although he’d be a No. 3 at worst on just about every other team. Teams should be content if their fifth starter stays around .500 with a decent ERA. Leake has had a winning record in two out of his three full seasons, and he has a career 4.09 ERA.

No. 5 starters aren’t supposed to have the lowest ERA on the team, but that’s exactly what Leake has done this year. It’s not a knock on the rest of the rotation because Leake has just been that good.

After ditching his long hair over the offseason, Leake has rebounded from a disappointing season last year. 

Cingrani is back in Louisville and Chapman remains in the bullpen, but Leake is only getting better in the rotation. Although his competitors rely too much on the fastball, Leake mixes up his pitches.

Maybe getting rocked by the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the National League Division Series gave him extra motivation entering this season. Maybe he’s just a 25-year-old without a dominating fastball learning how to pitch in the majors.

The former first-round pick is showing exactly how good he can be. If Leake can keep it up, the Reds will be tough to beat in the National League Central.


*All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com

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One Quick Roster Fix for Six MLB Contenders

It’s highly doubtful that any minor league player is going to have the type of impact Mike Trout had on the Los Angeles Angels when he joined the team in late April of last year and went to have one of the best rookie season’s ever (.326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 129 R, 49 SB). His team went 83-59 the rest of the way.

It’s also unlikely that any trade acquisition will have the same impact that Fred McGriff had on the 1993 Atlanta Braves when he came over from the Padres and played a huge part (.310 BA, 19 HR, 55 RBI in 68 games) in the team’s 51-17 finish and memorable late-season overtaking of the San Francisco Giants for the NL West title.  

Still, it’s worth trying to find that spark to get a team headed in the right direction. Here’s one quick-fix idea for six contenders.  

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Mike Leake: Is His Dilemma Deeper than the Cincinnati Reds Are Saying?

Is the thrill of the Majors already gone for the Cincinnati Reds’ young phenomenon Mike Leake?  Coming up, I’ll discuss this question and the ramifications for the Reds rotation.

He’s unrelated to Kelly Leak of The Bad News Bears fame, but he’s gaining the same bad boy image Leak had in the film.  Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Mathau) got Leak to join the Bears from off the streets.

As the best baseball player in the area, Leak was a chain-smoking, motorcycle boy who was also a loan shark.  I’m not sure how he was young enough to play on the team, but it’s Hollywood.

Mike Leake, 23, is living in the real world, and he’s probably the best baseball player ever from his hometown of Fallbrook, California.  The comparisons to Kelly Leak should stop there.  That’s unless we find out more information on Leake than the Reds want known.

They drafted him eighth overall in 2009 out of Arizona State.  ASU’s mascot is a Sun Devil.  I’m wondering what in the devil got into Leake over the weekend.

Once they found out who he was, Macy’s employees and security personnel themselves had to be wondering what the devil the wonder kid was on.  Whether or not he was on drugs, he’s brought Lindsay Lohan-type unwanted attention to the Majors.

If Leake has a drug or alcohol problem, then that’s major—all bets are off.  Knowing their future ace is fading in real life, not just baseball, the Reds starters could likely be thrown off.

Dusty Baker is one of the best managers in the game, but his pitching staff was suspect to begin with.  Now this.  He’s got the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals hitting better than they have in years—and now this.

Just what Baker needs.  Poor Dusty.  I just hope he didn’t swallow his toothpick when he heard the news.  Can you imagine him being on the field watching his pitchers throw and wondering where Leake was?  I can.

“Where’s Leake?” Dusty could have asked.  “Oh, Mike?” the bullpen coach might have replied.  “He’s downtown getting booked for theft.”  Gulp.  There goes the toothpick. 

Baker and general manager Walt Jocketty thought Leake was mature for his age.  He sure fooled them.  That’s why they brought him up to the Majors straight from college.  That and because he’s a pretty good pitcher, and they needed all the help they could get.

Being the first player to skip the minors for the Reds since 1957, Leake was obviously pegged for super duper stardom.  His star has fallen, though.  It’s gone careening through the sky and came crashing down to earth.

Once a big league player—or anyone—has a reputation like that, then it’s very, very hard to get rid of.  Counseling and the local community service tour—even jail—could be in his future, but what he’ll also need is a public relations genius.

Tiger Woods may have committed indiscretions, but he’s done nothing illegal that’s been reported.  Bet on this:

Like Woods, Leake will get an image guru in order to get his star back on stat tracker.  The voyage of the space ship Enterprise was nothing compared to what Leake’s ride back up the public image charts will be like.

Mark my word, we’ll see him giving the customary public service announcement and the pictures of him visiting kids either in the hospital or in a poverty stricken environment—or both.

We’ll hear how he’s performed community service and had a checkup from the neck up.  All this won’t mean a thing, though, if he doesn’t perform on the field.

And I don’t mean doing wheelies in the outfield on his bike while smoking a cigarette.  He’s got to be lights out—or at least lights dimmed—in his next few starts.

If not, then he could be heading to a place he skipped—the minors.  I bet he’s dreading that.  Like Jimmy King of the Fab Five Michigan Wolverines said in their ESPN documentary: “When you mess up, you can pay for it by being erased.”

What comes around usually goes around and humanity eventually gets in where we fit in.  Leake’s fitting in by thrilling fans on the mound for much of his upstart career.  Who knows what made him steal six shirts off the rack. 

He signed for over $2 million in bonus money and is making over $400,000 in cheese—enough to probably be part owner of a Macy’s store.  We’ll all be left wondering what he was thinking.

Maybe it was the thrill of being rebellious or the rush of seeing if he’d get caught.  It could’ve been a dare from someone he knew.  If so, someone needs to be out of his circle until further notice.

Maybe the power of being a major league starting pitcher was too much for him to contain, and this is what happens to an ego gone wild.  If this is the case, then more dangerous and questionable behavior has probably already taken place.

The bigger question for the organization—whether they say it or not—is how this will affect the Reds starting rotation going forward.  But that’s nibbles and bits compared to the real problem.

It sounds like the thrill is gone for Leake, like he’s so good he’s bored.

Whatever his problem is, though, if it’s bigger than what they’re saying, then the Reds had better nip it in the bud.  Never mind their rotation, this is a young man exhibiting signs of dangerous behavior and heading him off is the thing to do.

Athletes are supposed to teach life lessons.  Leake should take advantage of his opportunity to learn before he ends up another outcast in the Majors.

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