Break the Mold – Jack Flaherty Deserves More Support

photo: Jack Flaherty (Sergio Estrada/Imagn)

Despite being MLB’s best second-half pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty has as many no-decisions as wins during this historic stretch. The offense and bullpen share responsibility – and it could unexpectedly get worse.

I do not believe for one second that offenses vary their level of effort based on their starting pitcher. However, if anyone might be able to prove it, the St. Louis Cardinals behind ace Jack Flaherty would provide significant evidence.

Even if so, the 23-year old would appear to not need many runs of support. Flaherty is currently Major League Baseball’s hottest pitcher, with the lowest ERA (0.97) in MLB since the All-Star Break (in 14 starts). In fact, it is among the lowest five single-season post All-Star ERAs of all-time.

Inexplicably, the run support provided the right-hander by his offense all season long has been the lowest among the Cardinals’ starters and in the bottom 12 percent of qualifying MLB pitchers.

Jack Flaherty (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

This script went to its extreme in Arizona on Tuesday night, as the combination of extremely limited offense and a leaky bullpen did Flaherty and the Cardinals in.

As those who stayed up late well into Wednesday morning learned all too well, even with a no-hitter working into the seventh inning, Flaherty ended up with a no-decision when his bullpen (Andrew Miller specifically) allowed the tying run in the ninth. That turned a slim 1-0 St. Louis lead into what became a very damaging 19-inning marathon defeat.

It was yet another no-decision for Flaherty, his 14th of the 2019 season. Eight occurred among his 18 starts in the first half and the final six came in his 14 post-break outings. As one would expect, that is tops on the Cardinals staff.

Flaherty’s pre-break win-loss record was just 4-6, improving to 6-2 after. But even so, he deserved multiple additional victories beyond his relatively meager season total of 10.

For example, Flaherty carried another no-hit bid into the seventh inning in San Francisco on July 7, only to be saddled with a 1-0 defeat. To add insult to injury, he also collected his team’s only extra-base hit.

It is hard to believe, but the Cardinals as a team are a mediocre 16-16 in Flaherty’s outings – despite his team-leading 18 quality starts.

And it is not getting better. Note that during his historic second-half, Flaherty has as many no-decisions as wins (six each).

Researcher Tom Orf put Flaherty’s poor support into Cardinals team historic context. The hurler’s 14 no decisions is tied for third all-time in Cardinals history. Also note that Flaherty’s ERA is lowest of the St. Louis pitchers who rank in the top seven all-time in single season no-decisions.

Everyone involved has to hope this trend of minimal support leading to a no-decision for the Cardinals’ best starter is a regular-season phenomenon only. Otherwise, St. Louis’ first return to the playoffs after three years away could end quickly.

In fact, it could be even worse.

Prior to St. Louis’ final stumble in Arizona on Wednesday, it was assumed that Flaherty’s regular season had concluded and he would be the well-rested NLDS Game 1 starter in Atlanta. Instead, he could be summoned to pitch in Game 162, Game 163 or the Wild Card contest.

If that turns out to be the case, the core issues with the 2019 Cardinals are far greater than the meager support they provide to Flaherty.

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