By Matt Heiken, from Cardsblog.com
After losing Lance Lynn to the dreaded Tommy John surgery, and John Lackey to the even more dreaded Chicago Cubs, everyone knew the St. Louis Cardinals were on the prowl for a starting pitcher. And knowing the way the Cardinals usually do things, it was no surprise that they were looking to pick up a free-agent rather than make a trade and give up something of their own. John Lackey had been the team's ace the year before, but with Wainwright returning, the Cardinals thought they could still have a dominant starting rotation even if they picked up a fourth or fifth slot starter. And thus, the Cardinals signed Mike Leake to a five-year deal.
Prior to joining the team, Leake had always been considered a guy who could round out the bottom of a rotation.
Only having a winning record in 3 of his 8 seasons in the big leagues, and a career ERA slightly below 4.00, the expectation for Leake wasn't for him to come in and be a dominant pitcher. It was to have a guy who would eat up innings and try to keep the team in ball games.
As of now, Leake has for the most part struggled. In his 27 starts this season, Mike Leake has gone 9-10 with a 4.60 ERA. Now, this is the lowest ERA among Cardinals starters this year, which for a less than average rotation isn't very good. Additionally, it's Leake's highest ERA throughout a season in his career (the closest being a 4.58 ERA in 2012).
In the past, the Cardinals have usually had pretty good luck/skill at getting great performances out of their new players. Especially if they had been struggling or slumping in the season's prior to their acquisition. Examples of such players are Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, and Chris Carpenter. Because of players like these, a lot of people, including myself, were hopeful of a little Cardinals magic coming into play when Leake joined the team.
But even though Leake hasn't done a fantastic job this year, he has done what he was called to do, eat up innings.
Averaging 6.0 IP in his 27 starts, Leake has accomplished what is asked of starting pitchers: to provide six innings of work while keeping your team in the game. Sure, the 6.0 IP is just an average, meaning that some games he didn't accomplish that task, but that also means that some other games he accomplished more than that task.
It would have been amazing for Leake to step it up and hold a sub-3.00 ERA this season and have a record around 12-5, but that wasn't the case. It wasn't what Leake was signed to do, and it wasn't what was expected of him. Although Leake could have definitely done a little better this season, he's for the most part achieved the expectations placed upon him.
More appropriate phraseology would call it a pitching problem, because Garcia is not the only piece of the puzzle not fitting the way John Mozeliak intended when he constructed this roster over the offseason. While it shouldn't fall solely on the shoulders of one man, Garcia as the target of significant disdain right now is not entirely unwarranted.