Since arriving in Cincinnati, Reds pitcher Mike Leake has taken the brunt of two jokes. One probably deserved, the other he can’t exactly help. The first is the Macy’s incident. The other, his last name, which blows up in the media and Twittersphere after a bad outing. While the Macy’s fiasco has died down, Leake is also quietly doing his best to quell clever puns, especially in the month of May. Leake’s success in the first two months of the season has played a significant role in the team’s 3.27 ERA, the third best in the majors. Granted, the season has not even hit the halfway point, so these statistics below must be taken with a grain of salt.
Yes, Leake may not be the most overpowering pitcher the Reds have, and he hasn’t won fans any free LaRosa’s pizza with his per-game strikeout totals. But with Leake on the hill, the Reds are keeping their stranglehold on second place in the NL Central. He’s still a work in progress, and this is only his fourth year in the big leagues after jumping straight to the majors from Arizona State. He has great upside and is valuable to the team in more ways than just an arm, which is part of the reason why the Reds brass stuck with him instead of Tony Cingrani.
Leake has shown throughout his career that he can regularly oscillate from having brilliant performances on the mound and getting shellacked—evident from his April 12 start at Pittsburgh, when he gave up five runs in six innings, and April 27 in Washington when he gave up three runs and was pulled after three innings of work. Yet despite those two glaring outlier outings in April, Leake has reversed his course in the month of May. In fact, Leake’s current May numbers are much better than those during the same month in 2012. Leake has a 1.87 ERA in May 2013, compared to last year’s 4.55 ERA in May. He also decreased his run totals from 16 to 8, and the number of walks issued from 10 to 4.
This year, Leake is on pace to post numbers similar or better than his 2011 season as a Cincinnati Red. Through ten starts this season, Leake has a 3.02 ERA, and with four wins on the year, he has already equaled half of his win total from last season. Barring injury, and if he continues his May production, Leake could conceivably tie or exceed last year’s win totals of eight games by the All-Star break in mid July. Last season, Leake’s ERA was 4.58 through 179 innings pitched. He gave up 201 hits, 97 runs, 26 homers, and 41 walks. Through 62.2 innings pitched this year, he has given up 67 hits, 23 runs, 6 homers and 15 walks.
Source: FanGraphs -- Mike Leake
Also of note is that Leake has been stellar in his last two outings since Cingrani was sent back to Louisville. He pitched a three-hitter in seven innings of work against the Mets on May 21, and against Cleveland on May 27, he allowed one earned run on five hits through seven-and-one-third innings.
I am by no means saying that Mike Leake is the saving grace for this 2013 Reds team, but he certainly has done his job as a fifth start two months into the season. His next big test will come against the Pirates this weekend. I’ll be watching intently.
Brandon Kors is a reporter for The Post, Ohio University's student-run newspaper, and a former intern at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
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