2011 Reds

What to expect from Mike Leake?

There has been some discussion about Mike Leake below, and there is no question that he is going to be a key figure in the drama surrounding the starting rotation over the next month or two. Right now, according to our poll, Leake figures to be on the outside looking in as the season begins.

Barring injuries — and one sore shoulder could change things in an instant, remember — Leake is probably going to have a difficult time cracking the rotation. Mark Sheldon tells us, however, that Leake has been working hard to prepare for the season:

It wasn’t hard to see that Mike Leake made some winter changes. Sure, he shortened his hair quite a bit, but that wasn’t what stood out.

Teammate Yonder Alonso took notice on Monday when he saw Leake head to his locker, one of the Reds’ many early arrivals to Spring Training ahead of Wednesday’s report date for pitchers and catchers.

“Leake’s gotten bigger,” Alonso said.

According to Leake, he’s simply gotten stronger.

“This year, I mainly worked on getting strength,” Leake said. “I wasn’t too worried about the endurance part. I know I’ll be doing plenty of it during Spring Training and the season.”

In the piece, Leake says his goal is never to play in the minor leagues. This spring will tell the tale on that front.

Anyway, go over and read it the entire article. Mostly, it’s your ordinary player profile that we’re going to see a million times before spring training closes. There were a couple of interesting nuggets, however, including this:

Throughout last season, Leake was protected quite a bit from overwork by Jocketty, manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price. His pitch counts rarely topped 100 and he often was skipped or had starts pushed back. He couldn’t count on pitching every fifth day, but sometimes every sixth, seventh or eighth day.

Leake could be seen having a friendly chat with Jocketty near the bullpen following his throwing session Monday. He hopes to voice his desire to the club about removing some of the restrictions in 2011.

“I’d like them to just let me go as long as I can and not mess with the schedule,” Leake said. “It wasn’t easy. Once they told me I was getting extra rest, you relax. Right after you’re done with a start, you [normally] think the next day you have to get back into it and have a workout tomorrow. Once they say they’re going to shut you down, you say, ‘What am I going to do with the extra three days?’ You have to find ways to keep in a routine and it was tough.”

Wrong, Mr. Leake. They took care of you last year, and you still couldn’t handle the workload. Now you want them just to let you go? That sounds like an astoundingly bad idea.

Anyway, I like Leake and I think he has a bright future ahead of him. This spring is likely to be the biggest fight he’ll ever have to make a big league roster. I hope he pitches well and makes it a tough decision.

23 thoughts on “What to expect from Mike Leake?

  1. If the Reds only had five quality starting pitching candidates, instead of six, Mike Leake would be comfortably settling into the role of a major league starting pitcher in 2011.

    But he does find himself behind five other SP for various reasons, and barring injury or an utter collapse by one of the five in Goodyear, I see Leake on the outside looking in at the rotation in April.

    So, given that, should the Reds use him in the bullpen or send him to Louisville so he can start?

    Leake’s bat and athleticism would be assets for the major league team, even if he’s in the bullpen. But Dusty Baker has been such a complete failure at using long relievers, I’d send Leake to AAA for a while, to get him on a regular pattern of pitching.

    • Leake’s bat and athleticism would be assets for the major league team, even if he’s in the bullpen. But Dusty Baker has been such a complete failure at using long relievers, I’d send Leake to AAA for a while, to get him on a regular pattern of pitching.

      Exactly. See Owings, Micah for further reference.

      I like Leake a lot. Maybe he can worm his way in with another outstanding spring. First half of 2010, Mike Leake was better than anybody on the staff. Then teams caught up to the rookie, and then he wore down a whole lot. But at his best, he was every bit as good as Bailey or Wood can be. Like everybody has been saying, this is a great problem to have. And I wouldn’t trade anybody out. No way this team goes through a whole season with the same pefectly healthy starting five. And for my money, I’d love the call up from AAA to be Mike Leake instead of Maloney.

  2. No surprise that Leake didn’t leap from college ball into a 200-inning season. Who would? Contrary to the usual Dusty-Destroys-Pitchers rant, Leake was handled carefully and appropriately last year.

    So what if Leake lacked the stamina to pitch well into the second half last year? Take away his first-half performance and tell me who wins the division.

    All the pitchers should get a fair chance to pitch in spring training, with no preconceived notions standing in their way.

  3. Even good teams usually have, say, 8-10 guys make at least one start before the season is up. Guys will wear down, miss starts, go on the DL here and there. Picking our top 5 now is fun, but as soon as the season starts things will get a bit scrambled, and that’s normal.

    Might be more realistic to guess how many starts each guy will make.

    My numbers would look something like this:

    Arroyo – 33
    Bailey – 31
    Wood – 28
    Cueto – 27
    Volquez – 20
    Leake – 14
    Maloney – 6
    LeCure – 3

  4. I wouldn’t be too hard on Leake for not liking the decision last year. No player that’s worth much wants to sit. You can’t blame him for wanting to play and having confidence in his stuff. I agree with the way the staff handled him last year (which, btw, no one is praising Dusty for not overworking this young pitcher–which I am SHOCKED about), but I want our players to want to be on the field.

  5. @justcorbly: Just for the record, I think Mike Leake will be pretty darn good. This is mostly Devil’s advocate.

    These things aren’t exactly linear (can’t forget about those intangibles like chemistry and momentum!)…but Leake finished the season at -.4 WAR. That doesn’t exactly say what his first two monthes were like, but I doubt it was 5 WAR, which was what the Reds won the division by.

    However, Wood put up 1.2 WAR, Homer put up .5 WAR. Volquez .5 WAR, Cueto 2.1 and Arroyo 2.3.

    Leake’s peripherals were not great. I think he’ll be good, but is not ready to be dubbed “the next Greg Maddux” quite yet.

  6. Leake’s peripherals for the year may not have been that good, but I bet if you look at those same numbers for just the first two and a half months, they would stack up pretty well. Unfortunately he just wore down and they gave him inconsistent starts. There is definitely reason to be excited for his future.

  7. @RiverCity Redleg: I’m interested! Let’s look:

    His K/BB ratio during the first two months was 1.8, the last three month it was 1.91 and 1.89 over the season.

    6.2 K’s/9 over the two months, 5.8 final three, and 5.9 over the season.

    WHiP of 1.27, 1.74 the last three, 1.49 for the season. (yikes)

    GB/FB% of 4:5, 10:9, 1:1

    FB% that HR 4.5%, 11%, 8.5% (Wow.)

    ERA of 2.48, 5.92, 4.23.

    Okay! I think that might confirm it! Mike Leake was way better the first two months. Sorry, I’m not informed enough to do the weighted stats. Looks like he got hit more and harder.

  8. @lookatthathat: Thanks for doing the work. Of course it tells us what we already expected. If he can increase his stamina and extend those original peripheral, he could be dangerous.

  9. It’s kind of hard to get too invested in Leake’s K/BB stats from last year. The first-half stats are distorted by his first two starts where he gave up 12 BB and the second half he was only starting occasionally, possibly hurt and moving in and out of the bullpen.

    I’m encouraged by his 2010 season, but comparisons to Greg Maddux should be based on style, rather than talent level, and that’s a big difference.

    It’s great to have the depth in the organization to have a pitcher like him who we don’t (at this point) have to count on.

  10. @Dan: 31 starts from Bailey? I like it…What would that look like for W’s and L’s…14-10…16-9 ????

  11. @Furniture City Red: Well, I’m sort of guessing/hoping there, but my thinking is that he’s more resilient and rubber-armed than we think. I hope I’m right!

    I don’t think he’s going to light the world on fire, but I think he’ll be solid. I’ll say, hmmm… 12-11 with a 4.35 ERA. Sort of Arroyo-esque, but with more strikeouts.

  12. I hate that the seemingly inevitable is that Leake will be left out. He was so good for 2/3 of the year, and Bailey is a roller coaster ride to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bailey, but I definitely see him right now as the 6th best option. Clearly the lack of options is a big factor, so that will work for Bailey, and that might be for the best. I really enjoyed Leake’s ability at the plate too, but if it comes down to it he probably would be best off at Louisville instead of in the ‘pen. However it is always nice to have this problem rather than that of previous years (we have two good starters and have no idea about the other three spots, not to mention any injury replacements).

  13. @Steve: It’s also hard to get a decent read on something when half the stats appear “aberrant” ha ha

  14. Dusty didn’t over use Leake, but Dusty about killed me leaving Leake out too long on this game. I don’t like to get mad at watching sports, but this one got me pretty dusted up.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI201007090.shtml

    Looking at Mike Leake’s game logs, he really didn’t pitch too well after that start.

    I think Mike Leake will be fine. The guy seems to know how to pitch. He might not have the best stuff, but guys that know how to pitch end up hanging around. I am sure either by injury or trade, Leake will get his shot this year with the Reds at some point.

  15. I think a big problem for Leake was how they kept on skipping his starts, it made him inconsistent. Leake touched on that in the above quote. The workload wasn’t the problem, he couldn’t keep his consistency with always missing time. I could see how that could make you lose your rhythm, having 4 days between one start and 7 between the next. Arroyo has also talked about then whenever he’s been asked about Leake. Besides, if he says that’s the problem, why not believe him?
    The best thing they could do is send him to AAA to start the year, and have him start every fifth day. See how he handles it down there, let him build up innings. I don’t see that being his problem down the road, the biggest thing for him will be adjusting to the big league hitters. I’ll bet he can do that just fine, and he’ll be a fine future pitcher.

  16. Based on Leake’s comments along with human nature, I am concerned that he’s going to force
    things when he’s tired—to “prove” that he can handle a tougher workload. I’d slap an innings
    restriction on him right now, just to take that option away.

  17. except for one brief period at the end of the 2009 season when he actually threw 98mph at the big league level, homer bailey has never impressed me. his fastball is very straight, he barely has a second pitch, and certainly can’t throw anything else for strikes consistantly.

    in fact, if you go to fangraphs you can see he’s basically tried every secondary pitch at one time or another, with more or less 0 success. his slider was alright last year, but that was the first time it ever has been.

    because of this, i think homer is the best suited for the pen. i think he got annointed the savior at some point and the reds are being slow to move off that. sometimes top flight starter prospects don’t work out, and you turn them into closers or set up men. see masset, nick.

    if you put homer back there and he found a few extra mph, he could be really useful.

    this is all my roundabout way of saying i hope leake makes the rotation.

  18. I actually FULLY disagree with your last statement. Look at Leake’s stats last year. When he was on regular rest (even near the end) he was effective. When he had extra rest is when he struggled. I think if they had left him on a regular schedule he could have easily been rookie of the year. Their coddling of him is what fatigued him. Look at what Nolan Ryan is doing with the Rangers….if a player is prepared for that…you let them do it. Bronson has said the same.

    We’ll never know…but I fully think if they had kept Leake on a 5-day schedule, he would have went 15-8.

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