Jack Flaherty was a revelation for the Cardinals in 2018. In 28 games, he put up 151 innings (something he will look to improve upon this year, I’m certain). He ended up finishing 5th in the rookie of the year voting by having a K:BB over 3, an ERA just barely higher, and a FIP just above that. His WHIP was closing in on 1.100 and he allowed just under 6.5 hits per nine innings on the season. He struck out a team leading 182 batters in just those 151 innings. Like I said, a revelation.
Flaherty will have to work quite hard to repeat his success of 2018 in the 2019 season, and more so will have to work even harder to repeat his “relevation” status.
My projections for the young, hard-throwing righty for 2019 are:
33 starts, 182 innings, 5.515 IP/GS 3.46 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 3.00 K:BB 8.26 H/9, 9.791 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 0.99 HR/9
Over the last 5 years, the average starter has this line in 30 starts:
What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?"
While those numbers would present an improvement on the average starting pitcher in the majors over the last 5 seasons, I feel like it would represent both a step back and a step forward for Flaherty. It would be a step back due to his H/9 and K/9 being worse than this season. Those two things in conjunction would hurt a lot.
It would be a step forward due to him throwing nearly the same as the year before but saving his bullpen 31 more innings. It would also be a step forward because he would really be avoiding a sophomore slump - or if it is seen as a sophomore slump at the end of his career, then I’m very excited about the remainder of his career.
In any case, I expect Flaherty to continue his “bulldog” status this year in the rotation - seeing many comparisons to Chris Carpenter and his time here. The dude just seems to will things to happen at times and is incredibly fun to watch.
Expect to see more of this on the season. He had a 50% swing and miss rate on his knuckle curve in 2018. FIFTY PERCENT! He gets Cody Bellinger here, and made him look downright foolish in the process.
Here's another scopic by @cardinalsgifs. Unfortunately, I'm not sure who he is getting to chase twice, but man he looks bad, doesn't he?
How/If things go wrong:
Sophomore slumps are real things that can occur. Hitters will have more data on Flaherty. Flaherty might regress. He was already just a 5.4 IP/start guy. I have him slightly improving those numbers, but what if he’s truly a 16 outs per outing type of guy? In his first 22 starts of the season, he went 122 1/3 innings - good for 5.56 IP/start. In his last 6 outings, he went just 28 2/3 innings - good for just 4.78 innings per outing. This included 8 innings in two outings against the Cubs and Brewers to end the year in which he gave up 8 hits, 5 walks, 7 runs, all earned, and struck out just 8, while giving up an .889 OPS against.