Cincinnati Reds' Mike Leake Emphatically Shuts Door On Rotation Debate

By Thom Tsang
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

If you were one of the few who are still wondering whether Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds made the right decision to keep Mike Leake in the starting rotation and move Tony Cingrani to the bullpen … well, you have your answer.

Like the way that most of these debates should be settled, the righty has done so simply with his performance on the mound.

Still, Monday was a big start for Leake as it was the first for him since team ace Johnny Cueto returned to the lineup, which is also to say that despite having already won out in the starting rotation debate essentially twice now, a strong impression was going to be important for him to really extend his already very long leash on the season.

A poor outing would have started the rumblings all over again, but instead, he might have shut the door on the discussion altogether.

How? By simply continuing being arguably the very best starting pitcher on the Reds over the last couple of months. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates, the latest victim team in Leake’s path of domination. On Monday, the right-hander allowed just one run while scattering six hits and a walk over seven innings, while striking out three en route to his seventh victory of the season.

Now, he did have to work out of trouble on more than one occasion, but with a 12-4 GO-AO ratio on the day, he had no problem drawing the ground ball outs he needed when he did allow a baserunner. In short, the threats that the Bucs put up were never too threatening, not when he was always just one ground ball away from getting out of it.

Much more impressive than the W-L record for Leake is that fact that this start is his seventh straight quality start, and the sixth in that stretch where he has allowed one earned run or less.

To put it in perspective, that means he has a minuscule 1.15/0.98 ERA/WHIP over the his last 47 innings of work, with a strong 4.86 K:BB ratio thanks to his impeccable 1.34 BB/9. That wouldn’t just make him the best starter for the team, but arguably one of the best in the game altogether.

Small sample? Maybe, but he’s allowed three or more earned runs in just three of his last 12 starts dating back to April 17 — if that’s not an emphatic statement of intent, I don’t know what is.

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