Johnny Cueto has been ruled out for today's critical NLDS Game 4 against the Giants. As of now, it looks like Cincinnati will be sending 24-year old righty Mike Leake to the mound instead.
After improving on his rookie season in 2011, Leake had a less than stellar season in 2012. In 30 starts, Leake went 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 116 strikeouts to 41 walks in 179 innings pitched.
Leake also posted disappointing peripherals in 2012 including 10.1 H/9 and 5.8 K/9 as well as a career worst .479 SLG percentage.
In 2012, Leake's HR percentage was 3.4, nearly a full percent higher than the 2.5 league average and his 10.2 XBH (Extra Base Hit) percentage was nearly three percentage points higher than the 7.6 league average.
Now that that all the bad news is out of the way, here's why Mike Leake can beat the Giants in today's Game 4.
Leake is efficient at getting ahead in the count. In 2012, Leake started batters off with an 0-1 count 63 percent of the time, well above the league average of 59 percent.
Additionally, Leake was a victim of some bad luck this season, his .310 BABIP was 10 points higher than his career average of .300 and 14 points higher than the .296 league average.
Bad luck can take a toll on a pitcher's psyche and so can a team blowing his wins. In 2012, Leake had three tough losses and four wins lost by the bullpen. Though it doesn't explain away a 4.58 ERA, it can definitely play a roll in Leake's mental state as he takes the mound.
Leake is also coming off one of his better starts in 2012 where he went six innings against the Pirates allowing no runs on four hits and three walks.
Coincidentally, Leake's best start of the season, came against the same San Francisco Giants that he will face tonight. In said start, Leake pitched a complete game allowing one run on nine hits and one walk.
The start will come against a Giants team that is relatively unfamiliar with Leake. Only three players; Hunter Pence, Ryan Theriot and Pablo Sandoval even have double digit at-bats against Leake.
Also working in Leake's favor is the strong bullpen that follows his exit. One would have to believe that in this critical game that Leake would be kept on a short leash.
Surely Aroldis Chapman, and everyone not named Jonathan Broxton or Sean Marshall, would be ready to pitch if needed in Game 4 giving the Reds nearly a full stock of bullpen arms.
The Giants are in a funk offensively batting just .126/.215/.179 in the series' first three games.
Although the Giants have some momentum with their extra-innings win last night, Mike Leake is in a great position to bring the Reds their first NLDS title since 1995.
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