I know what you're thinking St. Louis Cardinals fans: who is Miles Mikolas, and did he fix my electrical last spring on my house?
The answer to the question is no, but I'll admit to knowing very little about the pitcher upon his signing yesterday afternoon. Mikolas is the newest member of the Cardinals, a 28 year old pitcher who has spent the majority of the past few seasons slinging baseballs fairly well for the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Central League.
When you look at Mikolas' career, it's a tale of two cities. His Major League Baseball statistics read like this: 4-6 record, 5.32 ERA, 91.1 innings pitched, and 1.82 strikeouts to walks ratio. That is about as impressive as a burnt piece of toast or screenplay credit in a Transformers movie.
The last three years spent pitching in Tokyo have featured different results, including a 31-13 record with a 2.18 ERA and a K-BB ratio of 5.48. Somehow, Mikolas stopped giving free passes overseas and pumped his strikeout per nine innings rate up to 9.1. That's not bad for a guy who split parts of three seasons between the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers.
New Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux worked with Mikolas in Texas, which gives fans a small ray of hope that something can be rekindled in the here. Sometimes, players go overseas to improve or simply try things out. Look at Eric Thames, the Milwaukee Brewers who made a triumphant-and rather loud-return to the Majors after spending some time in the Korean league. He was hitting six home runs for a MLB team in 2012, and then he slugged 31 for the Brewers this past summer.
Things can change for players after 2-3 seasons away, and if Mikolas can retain even 75% of his form from his Japanese league days, the Cardinals will be improved. Their rotation is in need of innings after the departure of Mike Leake and Lance Lynn, coupled with the decline of Adam Wainwright and unsure future of Michael Wacha. Mikolas' most impressive stat from 2017 is the 188 innings he threw. The Cardinals need rotation insurance heading into a winter round of transactions that have been heavily focused on non-pitchers.
It's a lot easier finding a reliever who can suddenly save 30 games than it is finding a 180 inning starter for the backend of your rotation.
There's simply no guarantee of what Mikolas can provide in a uniform. Three seasons facing MLB talent didn't fare so well, but he made a wicked change in effectiveness overseas, so what happens now?
Will he revert back to the guy who allowed a lot runs and walks per nine innings, or will the strikeout artist remain when he switches out his Japan threads for Cardinal red? 15 million dollars over two years isn't a small amount of change, but if Mikolas can provide even one season of solid pitching, the deal is a success. Will he be like Seung hwan Oh's Final Boss, and flame out after one year, or endure over several? Only baseball games and hitters can provide that answer.
The Lizard King is coming to town, and there are no guarantees, but I'd do the reptiles a solid and hide them once he lands at Lambert Airport.