Well, since we do seem to be looking at another season of the “Mike Leake: Pretty Decent for a 5th Starter” show, I thought I’d dwell a little bit more on something that Leake brings to the table that certain flame-throwing lefties (probably) do not. Namely, a bat, and a half decent one at that. Leake’s 2012 wOBA of .324 is probably not sustainable, but note that it was better than: Scott Rolen, Chris Heisey, Ryan Hanigan, Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraaco, Miguel Cairo, and Wilson Valdez. Mike Leake and Dioner Navarro were, by the numbers, essentially the same hitter last year.
Ok, so maybe not sustainable, but Leake’s career numbers show him to be a reasonably good hitter. His 2011 .201 wOBA is much more pitcher-like, but his .351 mark is, again, crazy good. 60 PA in a year isn’t a very reliable sample size, but I thought it might be a little bit more reliable in a starting pitcher, just because it has to cover at least a few months of time. Incidentally, the different between Cueto (one of the worst hitting pitchers) and Leake, via ye olde lineup generator, might be in the realm of 0.5 runs per game (of course, that’s 27 outs, and both pitchers come out long before that). Considering the difference in earned runs allowed between the two pitchers last year was 24, that’s kind of significant.
Leake is young, and came straight from college, where, presumably he hit more often in than in the minor leagues. I wondered if there were any trends in pitcher hitting, so I looked at the data (from 2003-2012, pitcher seasons with at least 40 PA). It turns out, it’s not that interesting.
You’ve got your standard scatter plot.
And, here’s one with an average by age, with some background data to give you an idea of sample size
Mmm. And here’s one with the individual pitchers sorted out into their own little lines.
Pretty much worthless!
So, that’s the easy statistical breakdown, and I’m not yet prepared to do anything more advanced, so we’ll go with the old standby – anecdotal information. So these are the pitchers in the last ten years who have wOBA’d over .300 and qualify in at least two seasons.
It’s still meaningless, but interestingly meaningless. I mean, there’s a lot of different guys on here. Brooks Kieschnick doesn’t count, for obvious reasons. Micah Owings turned into not a good enough pitcher, though he’s trying his luck as a position player now. Randy Wolf was not terrible, but his .327 wOBA season was clearly a fluke. Zambrano was excellent, but eventually got crazy and bad at pitching. Mike Hampton was awesome. Dan Haren clearly improved as he spent more time in the NL. Yovani Gallardo (who hit 4 home runs in 2010) and Adam Wainwright have both declined as they got older. Stephen Strasburg, we have to wait and see.
Basically, I don’t know what will happen to Mike Leake’s bat – but pitchers wOBA’ing that high in two separate seasons is clearly not something that a that frequently an occurrence. Pitchers who do it appear to be legit good hitters (for pitchers), and that’s good news. In any case, Mike Leake’s bat certainly adds a little something to his resume, and makes him more than worthy to be a 5th starter, even on a division-winner.