Mike Leake made his Arizona Diamondbacks debut this past Tuesday at Chase Field. Although the first batter he faced as a member of the Diamondbacks hit a home run, it did not rattle the veteran hurler. He was able to settle down, allowing only two earned runs in five-and-a-third innings. Despite giving up 11 hits, he threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 27 hitters he faced, going through the opposing order three full times. The Diamondbacks ended up winning 8-4, but he did not get the decision.
Wanted to be a Diamondback Before
Obtaining Leake was mentioned as a possibility back in 2015. It was even mentioned in this past June. This time, as the July 31 trade deadline was about to expire, the Diamondbacks made the trade for Mike Leake. The former Arizona State Sun Devil came home to Arizona.
How it Came About
The Diamondbacks had been interested in adding Leake on other occasions, including just a few months ago; however, they could not swing a deal to bring him home. Then in a move that caught all of baseball by surprise, the Diamondbacks traded Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros on the last day of the trade deadline.
By packaging Greinke and the $53 million of the $77 million remaining on his contract to Houston, Arizona general manager Mike Hazen not only remade his rotation for the short and long terms but also freed up money that could be spent on potential 2020 free agents and then a deal to acquire Leake. Seattle was looking for Arizona to pay part of Leake’s contract as the final piece to make it happen.
Almost Happened Two Months Ago
In June, after Luke Weaver went down with an elbow injury, the Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners discussed a possible trade for Leake and what the deal would look like. One variation involved Leake and Yasmany Tomas in a trade of “bad” contracts. However, it was never more than just a couple of exchanges between general managers.
It was also reported that Leake had never even been contacted about the trade, which would’ve been a necessary step since Leake has a no-trade clause in his contract. Whatever the reason, nothing happened in June.
What is Expected
What we expect to see is a starter who will take on some of the workload that Greinke had. While he’s never been an All-Star or Cy Young winner, Leake has been a reliable pitcher, one who can be counted on to pitch in tough situations. He is durable and a competitor as well as being an excellent all-around athlete.
He has five different pitches that he mixes up quite well. His pitching style is strictly location, location, location. Success comes when he mixes his repertoire and never throws the same pitch in the same location.
Over the past two seasons he has owned right handed hitters, specifically this season. So far in 2019, he has allowed just a .297 opponent on-base percentage and a K/BB ratio of 8.0 against right handed hitters.
He has had to Adjust
In his tenth MLB season, Leake is only the second pitcher in the live-ball-era with seven plus straight seasons of 30 plus starts and 50 or fewer walks. Hall of Fame member Greg Maddux is the other.
Like other veteran pitchers his velocity has slowed, but he pays attention to hitters and adjusts to what they’re doing during the game. Leake has also adjusted his sinker which catches hitters off-guard. This has led to more ground ball outs, something needed when pitching at Chase Field.
Coming Home to the Home Town Fans
Leake was happy to waive his no-trade clause for a chance to come home to Arizona. The former ASU Sun Devil was one of the best pitchers in Sun Devil baseball history. He now gets his chance to pitch in front of his family and the Arizona Diamondback fans.
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