Hey guys, have you heard that the Cardinals rotation isn’t pitching well? I know, I know, that’s shocking stuff. But I’m here to tell you that there’s a shining ray of light peaking through the clouds and I don’t want you to miss it.
Miles Mikolas has been incredibly effective for the past month and it’s gone a bit unnoticed due to the struggles of the pitchers around him.
Miles Mikolas has been really good recently.— Blake Newberry (@bt_newberry) May 25, 2023
In his last 6 starts he has a 1.98 ERA, and, perhaps most importantly, has pitched into the 6th inning in 5 of those 6 outings.
For a rotation that is lacking quality innings, Mikolas has been huge.
In his last 6 starts, Mikolas has thrown 36.1 innings of 1.98 ERA ball. That means he’s averaging 6 innings per start in a stretch in which the St. Louis Cardinals had to use Matthew Liberatore in relief due to needing extra innings from the bullpen.
That’s reliability. That’s length. And that’s exactly what Miles Mikolas has provided throughout his Cardinals career and it’s exactly why he was given an extension prior to the start of the season.
He may not be the most exciting pitcher but he seems to be hitting his stride after a rough start to the season. In fact, he now leads all Cardinals starters in ERA (4.23) and innings pitched (61.2) while ranking just a hair behind Jordan Montgomery in fWAR (0.8).
And right now he seems like the only pitcher in the rotation that can be trusted, and trusted to pitch well into the 6th or later. Jordan Montgomery started the year well but is going through a rough patch, Adam Wainwright is still trying to find his effectiveness, Steven Matz is...well...not great right now, and Jack Flaherty is still inconsistent.
This is what the rotation has done since April 27th, the day that began Mikolas’ turnaround:
Cardinals Rotation Since April 27
There’s a pretty wide gap between Mikolas and everyone else. The right-hander has risen above the pack recently to give the Cardinals length and effectiveness at least one game a week and that’s made him an invaluable member of the pitching staff.
Make no mistakes about it - this is a rotation that is still floundering - but it’s been Miles Mikolas who has anchored it as best he can. And there’s hope that things will improve. Jordan Montgomery is an effective pitcher who is going through a bit of a rough patch. I don’t expect him to be an ace but I do expect him to pitch like a perfectly capable mid-rotation starter this year.
And now it seems that Matthew Liberatore may have a chance to stick in the rotation and provide support and that could be huge. He’s a talented pitcher that has improved from last year and I wouldn’t be shocked if he was among the Cardinals top 3 starters by the end of the year.
So, for me, that’s 3 good starters out of 5. And that leaves us with 3 other starters to consider. Jack Flaherty has looked really good at times and inconsistent at other times but could be a solid option if he can be the good Jack Flaherty more often than the inconsistent Jack Flaherty. That’s cutting analysis, I know, but to me, it’s a real Jekyll and Hyde story with Flaherty.
Steven Matz is still homer prone but he’s also getting BABIP’d to death (.380 BABIP) and even for someone who throws a lot of meatballs and gives up a lot of hard contact, a .380 BABIP is really high. In fact, that would be the highest of his career by almost 40 points and that includes a year in which Matz had a 9.68 ERA. There’s pretty much a 0% chance that his BABIP stays that high.
He could turn into the serviceable starter he’s been in the past with some better batted ball luck and even though I’m no longer as high on him as I was before the season, I’m not yet ready to say he’s fallen off a cliff.
And then there’s Adam Wainwright. He’s really not missing bats (1st percentile whiff rate and he’s not inducing chases (14th percentile chase rate) which makes it tough to be an effective pitcher. I’m not going to write him off after 20 innings, but he’s really going to have to duck and weave his way around hitters this year with his diminished stuff if he wants to have success.
So, what’s my point? My point is threefold.
The first point is that Miles Mikolas has anchored this rotation for the better part of a month while everyone around him struggled. That’s been huge for a team that’s clawing it’s way back in the standings and he deserves recognition for it.
My second point is that the team has gone 14-13 since April 27th with essentially one effective starter. I expect the team to be even more dangerous when Mikolas gets support in the rotation from Montgomery, Liberatore, and/or anyone else.
And finally, my last point is that Miles Mikolas may very well end up being the most effective starter in the rotation this year. My season prediction (linked above) may have been wrong, and I’m willing to admit that, but if we’re being honest, Mikolas was probably my third choice behind Matz and Montgomery. Yet here he is, the pitcher who is seemingly always good for 180+ innings is right on pace for 180 more this season.
Mikolas has been great and long may it continue. Thanks for reading, VEB. I’m out of town all weekend at a wedding so you got another open thread from me today but I’ll be back to my usual full-length articles on Tuesday. Have a great Memorial Day!