Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Wainwright’s labor day

Choo was glad this cutter didn't drop more.

Choo was glad this cutter didn’t drop more.

Labor Day had an ironic meaning for Adam Wainwright, who for the second straight start toiled through a fruitless outing against the Reds.

What’s going on with the Cardinal ace? Ricky Horton mentioned on the broadcast that Wainwright’s curveball was “rolling,” which we took to mean meant ineffective and lacking movement. But we couldn’t find any significant correlation between his by-game vertical drop of his curveball and his ERA, FIP or xFIP, and besides, his curveball was dropping just fine last Wednesday, though it is worth noting that his two least-plummeting curveball games were in Cincinnati.

However, we did find a modest negative correlation between the drop of his cutter and his overall performance on the season (-.26 for ERA and -.28 for FIP). The vertical drop on his cutter the last two games –3.72 and 3.93 – has been the lowest of the season after averaging almost an inch and a half more at 5.20. That may not sound like much, but considering the difference between a ground ball, a line drive and a fly ball when two round objects collide, that’s all the difference needed. Indeed, one of the reasons for Wainwright’s laborious last two outings has been the long ball — three home runs in the two starts, and a HR/FB rate of 25% and 29%, respectively. And, sure enough, Shin-Soo Choo‘s home run yesterday came off a cutter, as did Jay Bruce‘s last Wednesday. (Joey Votto hit his off a four-seam fastball.)

We’re no pitching coach, so we have no advice on how Wainwright might go about getting some sink back on his cutter. But it does appear that the lack of movement on that pitch creates problems for him.

Other notes:

  • We submit the Cincy scorer’s ruling of “hit” on Devin Mesoraco‘s easy-going ground ball to David Freese as one of the worst scoring calls of the season. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: With silly calls like that, the notions of fielding percentage and earned-run average are nearly meaningless. It’s not like we don’t have better options for both these days.
  • With three strikeouts, Wainwright tied Dizzy Dean for second on the team’s all-time list at 1095. Given that the league average K/9 from 1930-1937 (that is, Dean’s career with the Cardinals) was 3.3 and that is has been more than double that — 7.0 — since 2005 (that is, Wainwright’s career), it’s fair to say that Ole’ Diz’s accomplishment is a notch above. Not to say we’re not excited for Wainwright, of course.
  • We wrote earlier this year about how Choo and Matt Carpenter were succeeding as somewhat non-traditional leadoff men, and they haven’t slowed. They’re 1-2 in all of MLB in OBP from the leadoff spot.

3 Responses to “Wainwright’s labor day”

  1. Brandon Says:

    Rooney also mentioned the cutter issue. Last year I felt he used it a bit too often and it does seem to be his “tell” pitch in terms of whether he is likely to pitch well. But we shall see.

    There may be something to the “tipping” concept – it’s kind of a go to response anytime somebody struggles and there isn’t an obvious explanation, but maybe that was happening.

    From the arbitrary endpoints file – looked at Waino from July on (excluding the last two against Cincy) and the numbers match his season numbers quite well. So the narrative I have heard elsewhere about how he’s really struggled since the All-Star break doesn’t hold much water – he really just had two bad games against a good team. Happens.

  2. MattinDurham Says:

    Hey Pip,

    Long-ish time reader (a year maybe), first time writer. How about another post on Westbrook now that the baseball gods seem to have been reading your blog (and Wacha delivered last night…even if pulled too early)? No ill-will towards Westbrook meant.

    Matt

  3. Pip Says:

    Thanks for finally writing, Matt — glad to hear from you. I apologize for not writing your requested article until tonight — hopefully it’s not too late. It almost was last night! ;)

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