Thursday, May 10, the Blue Jays are tasked with beating Mike Leake of the Seattle Mariners. J.A. Happ, the only consistent starter for the Blue Jays it seems, will be tasked with shutting down the Mariners offence.
Mike Leake has not had a good start to the year. In seven starts and 38 2/3 innings pitched, the veteran has posted a 3-3 record with a disastrous 6.28 ERA, 1.603 WHIP, and 66 ERA+. Despite being owed a huge $17,000,000 salary this year, he has been worth a worse than replacement level -0.1 WAR.
Leake offers a similar pitch collection as Wednesday’s starter, Wade LeBlanc. Leake features a fastball, cutter, sinker, change-up, slider, and curveball. Unlike LeBlanc, Leake offers more balance between all of his pitches.
Despite this balance, Blue Jays batters will see his sinker the most. This year, the Mariners’ righty has used his sinker 33.2% of the time. The sinker could be key to Leake’s struggles this year. Despite its high use rate, the sinker allowed a terrible .395 BAA and .721 SLGA in April.
Leake utilizes the cutter second most, at a usage rate of 24.9%. The cutter averages a velocity of 87.44 mph and has been a bad pitch for Leake this year. In April, the BA against the cutter came in at a high .357 and the SLG against his cutter was similarly bad at a high clip of .571.
The former Cardinal and Reds pitcher has tried to change pace with a change-up 15.7% of the time this year. The change-up averages a velocity of 83.1 mph and produced ground balls at an impressive rate of 47.37% in April.
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A slider is mixed into the repertoire 13.1% of the time and averages a slow velocity of 80.4 mph. Like the cutter, the slider has been excellent at producing groundballs. In six April starts, the slider produced ground balls an impressive 50% of the time.
Mike Leake utilizes a knuckle curve, similar to James Paxton’s curve that gave the Blue Jays batters fits, 11.1% of the time. The curve is quite slow at an average velocity of 78.0 mph, but it is a big breaker. The Blue Jays have proven to hate curveballs this year—James Paxton’s start only further emphasized their inability to hit the hook.
Finally, Leake will throw a four-seam fastball occasionally. Used just 2.0% of the time this year and averaging a slow velocity of 89.40 mph, it is not a pitch that Leake is comfortable using. The fastball has yet to be hit this year, despite its low use.
Leake has produced groundballs at a relatively average rate of 40.9% this year. As well, his K% and BB% sit at 14.9% and 8.6%, respectively. Both numbers are just slightly below average for pitchers. Also, his HR9 is just around average, as well, at 1.40—allowing 6 home runs in seven starts. Leake is similar to LeBlanc in that he is a veteran that doesn’t excel at anything specifically, but he doesn’t struggle greatly with anything, either.
After playing a large part of his career in the National League, the Blue Jays have limited experience against the veteran. However, those that have faced Leake have done very well. Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, and Yangervis Solarte have experience against Leake. Both Morales and Granderson have two hits in five at-bats Solarte is three for six against the Mariners’ righty, including a home run and two walks. Former divisional rivals (Pittsburgh and Cincinnati/St. Louis), Martin has ten hits in 32 at-bats with a home run, double, and walk against Leake.
After rallying late in game two, the Blue Jays will try to salvage a series win against the veteran righty. Some may struggle early since they have no experience, but the wealth of experience on the bench (Martin) should aid the learning curve greatly.