Jack Flaherty to was very vocal in his displeasure with starting the 2018 season in Memphis. The Cardinals decided to go with an ailing veteran Adam Wainwright instead of their top prospect. Despite his disagreement with the decision Flaherty went down to Memphis an continued his dominance, going 4-1, 2.27ERA over 5 starts. The injury bug hit the Cardinals allowing them to call up the 2014 first round pick, he took no time at all in becoming the proverbial “Ace” of a potential playoff team.
Miles Mikolas has been the surprise of the 2018 season leading the team in wins and ERA. He took home the only true All-Star birth for the Cardinals (Yadi in after Posey injury) and has established himself as the regular season MVP of the rotation. As the playoffs get closer Mikolas has not stood out as the dominant force that Flaherty has. Flaherty has shown the swing and miss stuff that you see from elite level starting pitching. Only Max Scherzer (12.09) has a higher K/9 then Jack Flaherty (11.24). Flaherty also through 5 less starts than Miles Mikolas has 32 more strikeouts. That’s nearly double the K/9 rate as the pitcher most Cardinal fans would assume would be the starting pitcher of a potential Wild Card game.
The debate from most fans would be that Mikolas is a different kind of pitcher then Flaherty. He pitches to contact more, throwing more strikes, going longer then Flaherty. While those attributes are useful int he regular season it’s Flaherty’s ability to make hitters miss that can be beneficial in the big moments. Similarly the Houston Astros would rather see Justin Verlander then Dallas Keuchel in a make or break moment of the playoffs. Verlander brings the ability to get out of a tough situation by missing bats rather then hoping for perfect placement. Flaherty has that ability along with a bulldog demeanor on the mound. He has the confidence that he can strikeout any hitter in a lineup in any given situation.
The youth movement in the bullpen and in the field has seen great results in the month of August but it has been Flaherty that has taken on the role of staff leader. Over his last seven starts he is 4-2 with a 2.45ERA, striking out 57 over 40.1 innings. He has taken control of teams from the very start. He has forced himself into the conversation for team ace purely by going out and taking it.
With the injuries to Michael Wacha and aCarlos Martinez and the current placement of the Cardinals at leading the Wild Card the question has come up on who would start the potential Wild Card game. A young team can be motivated by presence and dominance. A presence on the mound can be a determining factor for a young team. Flaherty brings that Cris Carpenter intensity along with a dominant repertoire of pitches. He can be the pitcher that this team has been looking for. The replacement for the great Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation. If the wild card game was tomorrow and you had everyone available to pitch the clear choice should be the pitcher that was an afterthought to begin the season. The answer to the question of who is the Cardinals “Ace” is Jack Flaherty.