TCN 2018 St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year

photo: Miles Mikolas (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

This is our 10th year of naming the St. Louis Cardinals’ top starting pitcher from the just-concluded season. In four of the first six years, Adam Wainwright owned the award, and in the most recent three years, Carlos Martinez snared the recognition each time.

Neither of the two is our choice for 2018. The honor goes to Miles Mikolas in a landslide.


The winner

Miles Mikolas (Yomiuri Giants)

I readily admit that I did not expect this would occur back on December 5, 2017, when St. Louis announced the signing of the former Texas Rangers pitcher who had spent the prior three seasons pitching in Japan.

My sights were set much lower – wondering how this unknown newcomer could somehow manage to replace departed Lance Lynn as St. Louis’ mid-rotation workhorse. The 30-year old delivered that – and much more!

As Wainwright and Martinez dealt with various levels of injuries and ineffectiveness, Mikolas was the Cardinals’ most consistent starter. In fact, he was the only member of the rotation to remain there the entire season, making 32 starts and pitching 200 2/3 innings, while delivering a team-low 2.93 ERA.

Miles Mikolas (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

His quality start total of 20 was double that of the next-closest starter, Jack Flaherty. Mikolas averaged 6 1/3 innings per outing, the only Cardinals pitcher to pitch into the seventh inning on average. He had both the lowest walk rate among starters (not just for St. Louis, but all of the National League) and the rotation’s best strikeout to walk ratio (fourth-best in the NL).

Perhaps most impressively, when Mikolas pitched, St. Louis won three of every four times (24 of 32) for a .750 winning percentage. Personally, he won 18 of 22 decisions, while no other rotation member won more than eight (again Flaherty). His winning percentage of .818 led qualifying National League starters in 2018. Mikolas went 10-0 on the road, the best single-season away record of any pitcher in Cardinals history. At mid-season, he was St. Louis’ deserved National League All-Star pitching representative.

Mikolas’ fWAR (Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs) was two full wins better than any other Cardinals starter in 2018, sealing his selection as The Cardinal Nation Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2018.

In fact, his 4.3 fWAR topped every pitcher signed as a free agent across Major League Baseball this past off-season, besting the likes of Yu Darvish (0.2), Jake Arrieta (2.0) and Shohei Ohtani (2.8 fWAR as a hitter and 1.0 on the mound), all of whom make substantially more money.

Among all National League starters, those bested by Mikolas this season in fWAR include long-standing aces Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Greinke.

Mikolas has one more season with St. Louis before being able to return to free agency. With a second year anywhere near as successful as his 2018, the then-31-year old should cash in big time next winter. I say, good for him, and good for the 2019 Cardinals in the interim.


The data

Here is the above-quoted data for Mikolas as well as the comparable numbers posted by the other 11 pitchers to make at least one start for St. Louis in 2018.

Starters Starts QS W-L StL record IP/start Run spt
Miles Mikolas 32 20 18-4 24-8 6.1 5.4
Jack Flaherty 28 10 8-9 11-17 5.1 4.3
Carlos Martinez 18 9 6-6 10-8 5.2 4.1
Luke Weaver 25 8 6-11 11-14 5.1 4.5
John Gant 19 5 5-6 8-11 5 4.1
Austin Gomber 11 5 5-2 8-3 5.1 6.9
Michael Wacha 15 7 8-2 10-5 5.2 5.3
Daniel Poncedeleon 4 1 0-2 6-3 4.2 2.3
Adam Wainwright 8 2 2-4 4-4 5 4.1
Tyson Ross 1 1 1-0 1-0 6 8
Alex Reyes 1 0 0-0 0-1 4 2
Totals 162 68 59-46 88-74 5.1 4.7

Among the other starters, Austin Gomber fared well, but he also received on average 1.5 more runs of support per game than any of his peers and 2.2 runs above the team average.

Michael Wacha delivered very strong results, but essentially could answer the bell for only half a season.

Next are the basic stats for the starters, listed in the same fWAR high-to-low sequence.

Starters W L G GS IP K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP ERA FIP xFIP fWAR
Miles Mikolas 18 4 32 32 200.2 6.6 1.3 5.0 0.279 2.83 3.28 3.67 4.3
Jack Flaherty 8 9 28 28 151 10.9 3.5 3.1 0.257 3.34 3.86 3.58 2.3
Carlos Martinez 6 6 18 18 100.1 8.8 4.4 2.0 0.298 3.41 3.65 4.45 1.8
Luke Weaver 6 11 25 25 129.1 8.1 3.4 2.4 0.315 4.66 4.18 4.36 1.6
John Gant 5 6 19 19 97.1 7.5 4.4 1.7 0.258 3.61 4.11 4.58 1.1
Austin Gomber 5 2 11 11 57 8.4 3.5 2.4 0.341 4.26 3.70 4.30 1.0
Michael Wacha 8 2 15 15 84.1 7.6 3.8 2.0 0.249 3.20 4.22 4.12 0.8
Daniel Poncedeleon 0 2 4 4 19.1 10.2 2.8 3.7 0.294 2.79 1.97 3.85 0.8
Adam Wainwright 2 4 8 8 40.1 8.9 4.0 2.2 0.310 4.46 4.28 4.26 0.5
Tyson Ross 1 0 1 1 6 6.0 3.0 2.0 0.235 3.00 2.83 3.38 0.2
Alex Reyes 0 0 1 1 4 4.5 4.5 1.0 0.300 0.00 4.41 6.06 0
Starters W L G GS IP K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP ERA FIP xFIP fWAR

Mikolas had one of the lower strikeout rates, but his walk rate was so impressively low that his strikeout to walk ratio dwarfed the other starters.

Flaherty and Daniel Poncedeleon were the only starters to punch out more than a batter per inning. Martinez, John Gant and Wainwright all walked four or more batters per nine, over three times the rate of Mikolas.

Gomber’s BABIP was unluckily high at .341. Wacha, Flaherty and Gant’s marks were low, suggesting some good fortune.

Mikolas led the regular starters in lowest ERA and FIP, though in his four starts, Poncedeleon did even better. Flaherty slipped ahead of Mikolas in xFIP, Expected FIP.


Prior years’ winners

Our top starting pitcher honorees over the past decade follow.

St. Louis
TCN Starter of the Year
2018 Miles Mikolas
2017 Carlos Martinez
2016 Carlos Martinez
2015 Carlos Martinez
2014 Adam Wainwright
2013 Adam Wainwright
2012 Kyle Lohse
2011 Chris Carpenter
2010 Adam Wainwright
2009 Adam Wainwright

These winners are also permanently recorded under “SEASON RECAPS/TOP PLAYERS,” located on the left red menu bar here at The Cardinal Nation.


For more

Link to master article with all 2018 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up will be our St. Louis Player of the Year.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2018


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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