Before the 2018 season, Miles Mikolas hadn’t stepped foot on a Major League diamond since 2014. Back then he was with the Texas Rangers, and before that the San Diego Padres. Now, upon returning from the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan, he’s the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals staff.
Mikolas has pitched well enough to be considered for the Cy Young Award in some years. Unfortunately for him, Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom are pitching this year and they’ve been incredible. That means the Cy Young is out of the question. There is one award his pitching performance has made him a shoo-in for though, and that’s the National League Comeback Player of the Year.
Since 2005, Major League Baseball has formally recognized one player from each league that has re-emerged on the baseball field. They recognize these players with the Comeback Player of the Year Award. There have been 26 total winners, 13 in each league.
In its first two years of existence, the award was voted on by fans. Major League Baseball and MLB.com selected six candidates from each league. There was then a poll ran on MLB.com where fans could vote for the player they wanted to win. Since 2007 though, the winners have been selected by a panel of MLB writers. A points system is used to determine the winner. Each writer votes for a first, second and third place winner. First place votes are worth five points, second place votes are worth three points and third place votes are worth one point. The players with the most points are given the award.
Cardinals’ Comeback Award Winners
The Cardinals have had two Comeback Players of the Year since it started, both via the writers vote. Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman have both won while wearing the birds on the bat.
Chris Carpenter was the first Redbird to ever win the award, taking it home in 2009. He won by going 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA over 192.2 innings pitched after Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery held him to just 21.1 innings between 2007 and 2008.
Lance Berkman took home the award in 2011. He held down the middle of the lineup that season with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and helped lead the Cards to their 11th World Championship. Berkman hit 31 homers, drove in 94 runs and slashed .301/.412/.547 for the year. The season prior he hit just .248 with a .781 OPS between Houston and New York while battling a knee injury.
Miles Mikolas for Comeback Player of the Year
His Last MLB Season
Mikolas’ case for Comeback Player of the Year starts with his last big league season with the Rangers four years ago. That season he went 2-5 with a 6.44 ERA and just 38 strikeouts over 57.1 innings pitched. Those numbers were poor enough: he could have pitched like a third man in the rotation this season and still have been considered for the award. The reason he should win it, though, is because he’s pitched like an ace.
The Cardinals have a lot of guys who have been very important to their ball club this season. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Harrison Bader have all been invaluable to the team, but no one has been more important to the rotation than Mikolas. He was signed to give the Cards solid innings in the middle of a young rotation, but he’s done so much more.
He currently is in a tie for the league lead in wins with a 17-4 record and has guaranteed himself a chance to at least remain in a tie by the end of the season. If neither Jon Lester nor Max Scherzer collect a win in their next outings, he’s already got that secured. That 17-4 mark also gives him the league lead in winning percentage among starting pitchers.
Mikolas also leads the lead in walks per nine at 1.4 and shutouts with one. His 2.94 ERA ranks sixth in the league, as does his 1.090 WHIP. He’s also thrown 192.2 innings, which ranks seventh in the NL, with one start remaining. To top it all off, he has a 3.34 FIP, 140 strikeouts to just 29 walks and was selected to the National League All-Star team earlier this summer.
No player in the league has had this kind of comeback season. Mikolas should be a lock for the award. However, anything can happen and there will be other deserving candidates, but Miles has the numbers and story to take home the award without any argument.
Featured Image by Dilip Vishwanat of Getty Images
“From Our Haus to Yours”