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Friday, June 25, 2010

The best rookie pitcher in the national league? Mike Leake

He is only a rookie. He has started the season with a record of 5-1 in his first 14 starts, with an era right under 3.00 and 58 strikeouts. He can list on his resume wins over St. Louis and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only that, but his team is only a game and a half out of first in their division, and at one point in the season was in sole possession of first place. Who am I talking about? Stephen Strasburg? Aroldis Chapman? No, I am actually talking about Mike Leake, the starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds that almost no one is talking about but everyone should be. Initially it was thought that Leake would start the season in the minors, but as we near the all-star break he has to be not only the favorite for Rookie of the Year in the NL but also among the short list for candidates for the NL Cy Young. So why then has Stephen Strasburg become the household name? That's a good question, and I believe it boils down to a simple explanation: Strasburg has more flash, and in the media world flash more often than not gets the headline over substance. Sure Leake has great stats for a rookie pitcher, but he does not throw a 100 mph fastball. And despite having a current era of 2.92, he has only recorded 58 strikeouts in his first 14 starts, an average of 4 strikeouts per game. Strasburg, however, has recorded 32 strikeouts in only 3 starts, for an average of around 10 strikeouts per game. So what if Strasburg has not faced a team with a record above .500 yet. His numbers still seem much more glamorous than Leake's, even if Leake might be poised to have the type of rookie season pitchers can only dream of, and on a team with a legitimate shot to make the postseason. But I digress. It's time that the media give this kid (Leake) the respect he deserves; if beating National League powers such as the Cardinals and Dodgers doesn't get him at least that, then I don't know what will. All I know for certain is that Mike Leake just might be the best young pitcher in the big leagues that no one outside of Ohio has heard of.

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