It’s time for another 2022 season review of individual Cardinal pitchers. I’m making my way through the starters, having assessed Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty.
NEXT UP: Right-hander Miles Mikolas.
OVERVIEW: In his age 33 season, Mikolas had his best year since 2018, his debut season for the Cardinals after revamping his pitching style during three seasons in Japan. Mikolas was one of the best starters in the National League in 2018, tying for the NL lead with 18 wins, ranking fourth in ERA (2.83) and fifth in fWAR (4.3) and posting the lowest walk rate in the majors.
Mikolas wasn’t sharp in 2019, laboring to a 4.19 ERA because of a significant elevation of his walk and home run rates. Burdened by an injured right flexor tendon that required surgery in late July of 2020, Mikolas didn’t pitch at all that year and made only nine total starts in 2021. But he returned in good form in 2022, pitching to a 3.29 ERA in 32 starts and 202 and ⅓ innings.
STATUS: Mikolas can become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
2022, THE GOOD: There was a lot to like including the durability that enabled him to produce the third-highest innings total in the majors. Per ERA+, Mikolas was 16 percent above average in overall pitching quality and had a low walk rate (4.8%) that ranked him among the top nine percent of all starters.
— Mikolas was named to the NL All-Star team for the second time in his career. His previous All-Star honor was bestowed in 2018.
— Mikolas was 12th among MLB qualifying starters with a Quality Start percentage of 69%, just behind Max Scherzer (70%), Max Fried (70%) and Joe Musgrove (70%.)
— According to Statcast, Mikolas had three above-average pitches in 2022: the four-seam fastball, the sinker, and his slider. The sinker was his best pitch, with opponents limited to a .211 average and .309 slugging percentage. He allowed a .213 average with the four-seam with a strikeout rate of 30 percent. That’s notable because his overall career strikeout rate is only 18 percent.
— Mikolas gave up an average of 1.033 walks and hits per 9 innings. That was even better than his WHIP (1.071) during his superb 2018 season.
— Mikolas was tough on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .207 average, .247 onbase percentage and .606 OPS.
— Mikolas is one of the more reliable ground-ball starters in the majors, and posted a 46% GB rate in 2022.
– Miles had a 6-3 record and 2.38 ERA in 14 starts at Busch Stadium.
2022, NOT AS GOOD: There isn’t much to complain about; Mikolas was solid and steady and most of his difficulties can be explained away … at least for the most part.
— For example: on the surface Mikolas wasn’t nearly as effective when pitching away from Busch Stadium. He wasn’t awful, or anything. And part of his 4.10 ERA in 14 road starts can be attributed to one unfortunate assignment at Coors Field in August (more on that later.) But if we remove the Coors debacle, his road ERA was 3.34. His road record was 6-10, but that’s misleading because of a glaring lack of run support. I’ll detail that if you read on.
— Mikolas was popped for 25 home runs; only 14 MLB starting pitchers allowed more than that. On a rate basis, Mikolas was touched for 1.2 homers per nine innings. That ranked 41st among 61 major-league starters who pitched at least 150 innings.
— After pitching to a 2.54 ERA in 120.1 innings before the All-Star break, Mikolas had a 4.39 ERA in 82 innings after the break. The batting average against him was .210 in the first half and .250 after the break. And after being hit for a .342 slugging percentage in the first half, the slug jumped to .417 after the break. Quite a difference.
— August was his worst month, as opponents roughed him up for a 5.75 ERA in six starts. But let’s remember that Mikolas took one for the team on Aug. 9 at Colorado, staying in the game for 2.2 innings and getting pummeled for 10 earned runs. It was ugly, but the unselfish Mikolas stepped up and did what he could to preserve the bullpen, and absorbed damage that distorted his overall ERA.
— I say that because Mikolas had a 2.75 ERA in all of his other months combined. And if we subtract that bad day at the hideous Coors Field, Mikolas had a 2.88 ERA in his other outings in 2022. It’s sad how one fluke start can distort the overall season numbers.
POOR RUN SUPPORT: Once again, be careful about judging starting pitchers solely on their individual won-lost records. Mikolas was 12-13 in 2022, but that’s a joke. Totally misleading. When Mikolas started a game, the Cardinalshad a record of 18-14. That was also misleading.
Here’s why: in STL’s 14 losses with Mikolas as the starting pitcher the Cardinals scored a total of 22 runs – an average of 1.57 runs per start. And his teammates scored no runs at all in five of the 14 lost starts.
Mikolas suffered eight “losses” in Quality Start performances. That was the highest number of tough losses in quality starts by a MLB starting pitcher in 2022. In his 24 QS Mikolas went 10-8 with six no-decisions and deserved a much better record than that.
CONCLUSION: Mikolas was the team’s de facto No. 1 starter in 2022. He isn’t a true No. 1 starter in the classic sense, but that isn’t his fault. The Cardinals don’t have a No. 1 starter, and that’s on the front office. Mikolas is valuable to this team. In his three healthy years in St. Louis, he’s averaged a robust 195 and ⅔ innings with a 3.40 ERA. That’s very good.
GRADE: I’ll go with a B+ for Mikolas. That may come off as overly generous to some of you, which is fine by me … but I refuse to hold the terrible run support against him. And the day he gave up 10 earned runs at Coors Field was an outlier.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.