In short, not that much.
Despite the St. Louis Cardinals losing in Adam Wainwright‘s last three starts, the losses cannot be entirely pinned on him. In all three outings, Waino completed seven full innings–something the other Cardinals’ starters have not done very often of late.
Seven innings of allowing four earned runs or less should be good enough for a team with an offense like the Cardinals. However, I understand that Waino is the team’s $97.5 million ace, and it is expected of him to be “lights out” most of the time. Thus, let’s review some of his starts and use some data from BrooksBaseball.net to figure out just what is going on with Waino.
July 26, 2013 against the Atlanta Braves: ATL 4, STL 1
7 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 home run, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
July 31, 2013 against the Pirates: PIT 5, STL 4
7 innings pitched, 8 hits, 4 earned runs, 1 home run, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
August 5, 2013 against the Los Angeles Dodgers: LAD 3, STL 2
7 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
The following table details Waino’s “Whiff Percentage” for the 2013 season on each of his pitches. As we all know, his three main pitches are his fourseam fastball, cutter, and curveball, so I will emphasize these more.
In his last three outings (against the Braves, Pirates, and Dodgers), Waino’s whiff percentage on his fourseam fastball was down to 4.76%. His whiff percentage on his curveball was slightly lower than his average at 10.67%. Finally, his whiff percentage on his dynamite cutter was lower than his season average at just 7.08%.
So what’s the problem? Why are his whiff percentages down so much? It may be that the Braves, Pirates, and Dodgers have better hitters, but there also has to be something else going on as well. After all, before this recent rough patch, he was widely considered a top-3 candidate for the National League Cy Young Award. A Cy Young candidate and a team’s ace is expected to dominate, regardless of the opponent. Well, a good outing tonight against the Pirates will likely bring him back into that conversation.
Last week, as we all know by now, manager, Mike Matheny, restructured the rotation–pushing Wainwright back to pitch the first game of the series against the Pirates tonight. Because of the move, Wainwright is now pitching on seven days rest.
National media has taken note of the move by Matheny which can be seen below in this tweet by John Buccigross:
One of Wainwright’s best outings of the season (April 13th against the Brewers) came on six days rest. He pitched a masterful shutout–racking up 12 strikeouts while allowing zero walks and just four hits. In the game, he had an impressive 14 whiffs on 36 cutters thrown (38.89%), had 4 whiffs on 26 fourseam fastballs thrown (15.38%), and lastly, had 3 whiffs on 22 curveballs thrown (13.64%). I realize this outing was against the lowly Brewers, but it came when Norichika Aoki, Jean Segura, and Ryan Braun were all on fire, so it was an impressive start nonetheless.
Thus, with two more days of rest, tonight bodes well for Wainwright and the Cardinals. Waino has “swing-and-miss” stuff, and he is at his best when his whiff percentages are up. Expect Waino to be snapping off some of those devastating curveballs (sorry, Carlos Beltran) we have all come to love. Also, expect more zip and late movement on his cutters. Both will lead to more whiffs by the Pirates and will likely lead to a better outcome for the team.
A win by Wainwright tonight will set the tone for the series in a positive way. Winning two out of the three is almost necessary for the team at this point in the season, though they will be the last to admit it. With the way the rotation sets up (Waino, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn), it would also be nice to sweep the series as well, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I am pumped to see what Wainwright brings to the mound tonight, and to be frank, I feel bad for Pirates’ hitters.
Until next time…
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