Adam Wainwright loves Cardinals’ Mike Leake signing … like really loves it


Mike Leake he of 28 years and a career ERA of 3.88 just scored a 5-year, $80 million deal from the Cardinals. And the ace and face of St. Louis’s pitching staff thinks that deal was a steal.Adam Wainwright went on 101 Sports in St. Louison Wednesday, and lauded the Leake signing.MORE: The Cardinals’ Christmas wish list| Ranking MLB fan miseryI think this is one of those patented, under-the-radar, great signings,” Wainwright told Bernie Miklasz.”He doesn’t come with the $200 million price tag, but if you look at what he’s done He is one of the best hitting and running pitchers in the game. Which people (listening) are scoffing at now, like who cares. But it does mean something, and it wins games.”As is often the case with complementing a pitcher’s hitting, Leake excels on a relative scale an everyday hitter would never get away with. That said, Wainwright isn’t wrong. Leakehas a career slash line of .212/.235/.310 with an OPS+ of 48 enough to produce a positive batting WAR (3.4), rather than costing his team at the plate. It compares favorably to other pitchers who rightly or wrongly have a reputation for swinging a bat with a semblance of competence. Clayton Kershaw has a career .153/.193/.176 line and OPS+ of 4. Madison Bumgarner’scareer numbers: a .183/.222/.300 line with an OPS+ of 46.Leake does, however, have ways to go in matching the hitting prowe s of a common source of comparison for him: Mike Hampton. Hampton (who pitched from 1993 to 2010), finished his career with a .246/.294/.356 stat line and an OPS+ of 67. But through his age-27 season, Hampton’s OPS+ (53) compared closely to Leake’s today.All that said, Wainwright is not just impre sed with Leake’sbat and base-running skills.And if he can do it what he did at Great American Ball Park having to pitch there 15, 16 times a Scott Feldman Jersey year I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do at Busch Stadium,” Wainwright said.”He’s been tough on us and he’s getting better. His stuff has gotten better…He’s solid, he’s a proven winner, he’s a proven innings eater and he’s a proven great athlete. and so when you take all of those intangibles and put them in a system like we have, with a team that is focused on winning, and in a good situation, I really think Mike Leake is going to take off. He’s just starting to scratch the surface of what he can do. And I think you’re going to see him be even better as a St. Louis Cardinal.MORE: SN picks best player at each jersey # | The greatest Cardinals of all timeDespite leaving behind the pitcher’s nightmare that is Great American Ballpark, Leake saw his numbers dip after the Reds traded him to the Giants in 2015. In 21 starts with Cincinnati, Leakeearned a 9-5 record with a 3.56 ERA; in San Fran, he finished the season on a 2-5 slump, his ERA seeing an uptick to 4.07 ERA. In that transition, the small-framed pitcher saw his FIP, WHIP, home run rate andstrikeout rate trend in the wrong direction.But before that, Leakehad put in a solid tenure as a youngster in Cincinnati. Coming into the league at 22 years old, Leakegarnered a record of 62-47 in six years as a Red. His ERA of 3.87 didn’t represent ace stuff, but provided the Reds with a promisingback-of-the-rotation arm. He seemed to especially hit his stride in 2015, when he saw career-high totals in FIP, strikeout rate (6.9/9 IP) and WHIP. His career ERA+ (101) puts him just above average, which doesn’t sound exciting, but is valuable, given good health.Wainwright thinks Leake will make a new leap with St. Louis. And Leake won’t be alone in bolstering the Cardinals rotation that already had a league-best 2.94 ERA in 2015. Wainwright, himself, returns in 2016 after an Achilles injury limited him to seven starts last season. Before having to bow out, Wainwright had a 1.61 ERA and was coming off a 2014 season in which he had the league’s lowest rate of home runs allowed.According to the Cardinals website, Leake currently slots in as a formidable No. 4 option behind Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Michael Wachawith the young, promising Carlos Martinez lurking at No. 5.And thus, the NL Central che s match between the Cardinals and Cubs continues, with Leakeplaying the part of the latest pawn with the potential to become a knight with the masters of player development in St. Louis.(You can read or listen to the entire Wainwright interview, which touches on several Cardinals topics, at 101 in St. Louis’s website.)