Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Is Wainwright pitching differently from how he started the season?

In his seven-strikeout complete game against the Brewers, Adam Wainwright pitched the best game in the majors on Saturday:

Rk Player Tm Opp IP BB SO HR BF FIGS
1 Adam Wainwright STL MIL 9 0 7 0 30 71
2 Doug Fister DET CLE 9 0 6 0 31 68
3 Clayton Kershaw LAD CHC 7 2 7 0 26 63
3 James McDonald PIT CIN 6 1 7 0 26 63
3 Felix Hernandez SEA NYY 9 2 6 0 30 63
3 Roy Halladay PHI ARI 7 1 5 0 25 63

It was also Wainwright’s best game of the season, tied with his 71-FIGS starts on May 22 and July 18. After beginning the year with a 7.32 ERA over his first four starts, the Cardinal ace now has a 4.03 ERA.  So is Waino doing something different from how he pitched earlier in the year?

Judging by the difference in his ERA of his first 11 starts — 6.26 — and of his most-recent 11 starts — 3.52 — an observer might conclude that the Cardinal ace is indeed pitching differently. But look at his expected fielding-independent pitching and you’ll find that the disparity isn’t all that big: 3.64 and 2.67. Check out his game log using ERA alongside FIP and xFIP:

By and large, Wainwright is pitching the way he has been all season, which is to say consistently well. Even now, that 4.03 ERA is a full run above his FIP and xFIP on the season (3.04 and 3.00, respectively).

If he has changed anything, it’s in his walk rate, which he has cut in half from 3.22 to 1.65. Curiously, he’s still throwing the same number of pitches to batters — 3.7 P/PA in his first 11 starts as well as his last 11  — and has nearly identical strike and swinging rates. It’s just that his free passes are keeping extra runners off base, and conversely, they’re turning into outs.

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