Friday night Leake

Mike Leake will make his seventh professional start tonight. His debut in the majors came against the Cubs, and now he’ll face another division foe in Pittsburgh.

In case you forgot—as many have—Leake pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. While he certainly skipped the “minor leagues” and the long schedule and grueling travel, but he has some pro experience—wearing a Reds jersey no less—against top prospects in the AFL. Not to take away from Leake’s fast jump from NCAA to MLB, but he had a little seasoning in between. Enough nitpicking.

The best way to describe Leake’s debut was “effectively wild”. For those familiar with his track record that came as a bit of surprise. In three years of college ball, Leake’s walks per nine innings were 2.1, 1.5 and 1.5. His AFL total was 1.4, and he post four walks in 18 Cactus League innings—that’s a 2.0 rate for those keeping score at home. He still managed to walk seven Cubs in less than seven innings of work.

Take a look at Leake’s rate of pitches in zone along swing rates out of and in the zone. This covers a few AFL outings along with a Cactus League game and his debut against the Cubs. It’s all of his PITCHf/x games, excluding a 17-pitch AFL appearance.

date # In Zone Swing OZ Swing IZ
2009-10-15 46 0.522 0.227 0.667
2009-10-21 56 0.536 0.192 0.533
2009-10-27 49 0.776 0.364 0.579
2010-03-26 51 0.627 0.316 0.469
2010-04-11 105 0.400 0.206 0.595
324 0.528 0.242 0.556

Three things happened.

  1. Leake threw less strikes
  2. The Cubs did a good job of laying off when he missed
  3. And they didn’t sit back when he was in the zone

Too bad for the Cubs that they also whiffed on 28% of all swings, the highest rate for any of the above games. We’ll see how he fares against Pittsburgh.

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