Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reality Check: Adam Wainwright

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is a regular on MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM. Yesterday he was asked about Adam Wainwright, the ace of the Cardinals' pitching staff. He remarked that Wainwright is great but underappreciated, noting that he wasn't named NL Pitcher of the Month in April despite leading the league in a number of categories.

That made me think: Which categories?

ERA? Nope, his 1.20 ERA was second to Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto's 1.15. Pitcher of the Month Jose Fernandez was fourth at 1.59.

WHIP? No, he allowed 0.78 walks and hits per inning pitched, fourth in the league after Cueto (0.77), the Giants' Tim Hudson (0.74) and the Cubs' Jason Hammel (0.69). Fernandez was right behind Wainwright at 0.83.

Strikeouts? Wainwright was sixth with 42. Strikeout percentage? Eleventh, 25.3%. Strikeout to walk ratio? Seventeenth, 3.82. Fernandez was first, first, and sixth.

Pitches in the strike zone? Wainwright was 16th, 52.7%, ahead of Fernandez's 19th-place 52.3%. How about getting batters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone? Fernandez led the league with 37.2%; Wainwright was 23rd at 30.7%. 

Keeping the ball in the park? Only 2.6% of Wainwright's fly balls allowed went over the fence, second best in the league, a percentage so freakily low it's almost certainly a product of some luck. (Sure enough, it's a higher-but-still-outstanding 6.3% in May.) 

He didn't lead the league in innings pitched (third) or batters faced (sixth). He didn't allow the lowest batting average on balls in play (fourth). He didn't lead in baserunners left stranded (eighth). 

The only category I could find in which Wainwright led the league was wins. He was tied for first with the Dodgers' Zack Greinke with five. But even that's a little suspect; in a league in which the average pitcher got run support of 3.97 per nine innings in April, the Cardinals supported Wainwright with 5.80, seventh in the league, higher than Greinke (5.60) and Fernandez (5.45), to name two.  

In short, other than wins, I couldn't find anything in which Wainwright led the league in April.

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