TCN’s 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year

photo: Jack Flaherty (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

There have been times in the last decade-plus when sitting down to evaluate the candidates for the St. Louis Cardinals’ top starting pitcher from the just-concluded season that I had no idea who would stack up on top.

That was not the case here in 2019.

Any doubt was obliterated as Jack Flaherty became the best pitcher in the entire National League over the second half of the season, winning the league’s Pitcher of the Month award in both August and September.

So yes, The Cardinal Nation’s St. Louis Starting Pitcher of the Year honors go to Flaherty in a landslide. But, hey, stay with us, as there is more to see here!


The data

Here are the key numbers posted by the seven pitchers to make at least one start for St. Louis in 2019. That is down from 11 the year before. They are listed in descending fWAR order.

Starters – 2019 Starts QS W-L StL record IP/start Run spt
Jack Flaherty 33 20 11-8 17-16 6.0 4.2
Miles Mikolas 32 17 9-14 17-15 5.2 4.2
Adam Wainwright 31 14 14-10 19-12 5.1 5.4
Dakota Hudson 32 17 16-7 22-10 5.1 4.9
Daniel Ponce de Leon 8 2 0-2 5-3 4.1 4.3
Michael Wacha 24 6 5-7 11-13 4.2 5.2
Genesis Cabrera 2 0 0-2 0-2 4.0 2.5

Flaherty led the staff in starts, quality starts and innings per start, while receiving the least run support from the offense (tied with Miles Mikolas). Not surprisingly, this pair with the poorest run support did not win as many games as those who had more runs scored for them (Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright).

Note that Hudson (and Mikolas) had just three fewer quality starts than did Flaherty. (A quality start is of at least six innings during which three of fewer earned runs are yielded.)

Next are the rate stats for the starters.

Starters – 2019 K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP ERA FIP fWAR
Jack Flaherty 10.6 2.5 4.2 0.242 2.75 3.46 4.7
Miles Mikolas 7.0 1.6 4.5 0.302 4.16 4.27 2.5
Adam Wainwright 8.0 3.4 2.4 0.319 4.19 4.36 2.2
Dakota Hudson 7.0 4.4 1.6 0.275 3.36 4.92 1.1
Daniel Ponce de Leon 8.1 4.9 1.6 0.258 4.15 4.74 0.4
Michael Wacha 7.3 4.0 1.8 0.304 4.66 5.53 0.0
Genesis Cabrera 5.4 4.3 1.3 0.344 6.48 6.57 -0.1

Like I said, It wasn’t even close. By a considerable margin, Flaherty had the lowest ERA, lowest FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and highest strikeout rate.

If that wasn’t enough, his overall value as measured in Wins Above Replacement (according to Fangraphs) is the same as the next-best two starters, Mikolas and Adam Wainwright, combined.

Continuing his tradition, Mikolas had the lowest strikeout rate (tied with Hudson), but his walk rate was so impressively low that his strikeout to walk ratio bested the other starters. Flaherty came in second in both walk rate and K/BB ratio.

The only minor blemish – and it is minor – is that Flaherty’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was low at .242, suggesting some good fortune perhaps. However, it may just be his approach, as his 2018 BABIP was .257.


The winner

Here are just a few of the 2019 highlights by the 23-year old right-hander.

  • NL Ranks: ERA (2.75, 4th), starts (33, T3rd), innings pitched (196.1, 8th), WHIP (0.97, T1st), opponent BA (.192, 1st), opponent OBP (.256, 1st), opponent SLG (.335, 3rd), opponent OPS (.591, 2nd), hits/9 IP (6.19, 1st), baserunners/9 IP (9.03, 1st), strikeouts (231, 6th), strikeouts/9 IP (10.59, 9th), strikeouts/BF (29.9%, 5th), quality starts (20, T6th), highest percent of swings that miss (30.7%, 6th), lowest percent of pitches put into play (15.1, 5th), lowest percent of swings put into play (31.4, 4th), most pitches thrown per batter faced (4.12, 1st), opp. SB percentage (1-4, 25.0, *1st).
  • Personal records: Established his single-season career highs in wins (11), innings pitched (196.1), strikeouts (231), quality starts (20) and games started (33).
  • Team records: Set Cardinals single-season records in strikeouts/ 9 IP (10.59) and percentage of swings that missed (30.7) (in data since 1988). His .192 opponent batting average was second to only Bob Gibson (.184) in 1968.
  • MLB accomplishments: Sported the third-lowest ERA (0.91) in MLB history in 15 starts after the All-Star Break, behind 2015 Cubs Jake Arrieta (0.75) and 1994 Braves Greg Maddux (0.87). Made MLB-leading 14 starts pitching 6.0 or more innings while holding his opposition to three hits or fewer (Justin Verlander 12; Gerrit Cole 11). Since 1885, he is only the third pitcher younger than 24 years of age to record a season of at least 230 strikeouts (231), while permitting 55-or-fewer walks (55) to go along with an ERA of 2.75-or-better (2.75), joining Clayton Kershaw (2011) and Mark Prior (2003).

Jack Flaherty

(Thanks to Cardinals media relations for the ranking information above.)


Prior year winners

Our top starting pitcher honorees over the past decade-plus follow.

TCN Starter of the Year
2019 Jack Flaherty
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 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up is our St. Louis Player of the Year.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


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

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