Mike Leake vs The Phillies // The Enquirer/Jeff Swinger

Mike Leake vs The Phillies // The Enquirer/Jeff Swinger

Michael Raymond Leake. We watch him take the mound from start to start wondering whether good Leake or bad Leake will show up to pitch. It seems like half the time it is Dr. Jekyll and the other half it is Mr. Hyde.

I considered the merits of this preconception by analyzing Leake’s quality start percentage. A quality start is one where the starting pitcher throws 6 or more innings and allows 3 or fewer earned runs.

The quality start measure is certainly not the be-all, end-all of pitcher rating. There are far better rate stats to analzye a pitchers full body of work. However, I think as a quick-and-dirty check of how frequently a starting pitcher keeps their team in a ballgame, the quality start metric does a decent job.

The following summarizes the quality start percentages of the Reds 5-man rotation (1) over their careers, (2) through their age 25 season, and (3) during the three year period of 2010-2012.

Career Thru Age 25 Last 3 Years
Arroyo 326 184 56.4% 29 5 17.2% 97 55 56.7%
Bailey 114 57 50.0% 78 34 43.6% 74 42 56.8%
Cueto 152 89 58.6% 116 64 55.2% 88 59 67.0%
Latos 108 66 61.1% 108 66 61.1% 95 59 62.1%
Leake 81 49 60.5% 81 49 60.5% 78 48 61.5%

All five starters have tossed quality starts at or above the major league average frequency of 50% for their careers. In other words, half of all major league starts results in a quality start. Each member of the Reds rotation has been at least that good during their respective careers, and they’ve been significantly better as a group the past three years.

In the recent past, Leake’s QS% is third best on the team behind Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos. Looking at what everyone did through Leake’s current age of 25, Mike is second in QS% only to Latos.

Here’s where QS% doesn’t tell you nearly the whole picture. A lot of Leake’s games meet or just pass the minimum definition of a quality start. Three runs in six innings is a below league average ERA of 4.50. He allowed 3 runs in 6 starts of 6+ innings last year. In a lot of his non-quality starts, Leake gives up more than one run per inning and/or doesn’t make it 5 innings. Seven of his starts last year were over before the 5th inning.

Given his age, and compared to the other starters in the rotation, I think his results so far shows future promise. A lot of people like to compare him to Bronson Arroyo, yet Arroyo wasn’t even regularly taking the ball every 5 days for a major league team until he was 27 years old.

Overall it’s 6 out of every 10 starts in Leake’s young career have been 6 innings or longer and 3 runs or less. Better than 50/50, though maybe not easily distinguishable to the naked eye. Most team would love to have their #5 starter be that good 6 out of every 10 starts.