by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Overall the numbers for Adam Wainwright have been solid, with a 2.52 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, but things have spiraled in August with a 5.29 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Is this just a bad stretch or should we have seen it coming?
Overall he has been hit relatively hard, with a 24.2% line drive. That certainly makes his .268 BABIP seem extremely lucky, with the .324 thus far this month being a necessary regression (.250 in the first half).
That alone wouldn’t be the biggest cause for concern, but there are other signs that should be garnering our attention. Wainwright’s strikeout rate is down, currently with a 7.17 K/9 on the season and 6.14 in the second half. His SwStr% of 8.4% is below average. Part of the problem could be a reduction in velocity, which has been seen as the season has progressed (chart is his velocity on his Fourseam fastball//Sinker):
- March – 92.44 // 92.12
- April – 91.47 // 91.28
- May – 91.25 // 90.99
- June – 91.60 // 90.98
- July – 91.00 // 91.10
- August – 90.90 // 90.95
As a comparison his overall fourseam fastball is at 91.25 mph, down from 92.21 a year ago.
The other obvious concern is his regression in groundballs. There was a time when he posted a mark north of 50% and last season he carried a 49.1% mark. This year? He’s at 44.7% and it’s been consistently down (45.0% in the first half and 43.9% in the second half).
Thus far the home run ball hasn’t been an issue, with a 0.30 HR/9, though how much longer can that really last?
Obviously no one is going to push the panic button and dub Wainwright as “done”, however there has to be concern with what he’s going to do for the remainder of 2014. When you couple the
- Elevated line drive rate (the third consecutive season he’s at 23% or higher)
- Drop in velocity (leading to a drop in strikeouts)
- Potential for an elevated BABIP, given his luck early on
The odds are he continues to spiral down the stretch. Unfortunately there’s not much fantasy owners can do, given his upside. What if he does turn things around? What if he does rediscover the “luck” that brought him success in the first half? You certainly don’t want to have one of the best pitchers in the game riding the line.
Unless you are loaded with starting pitchers or carrying a big lead, all you can do is run him out there and hope for the best. He still has control and upside, so the potential is there, but at this point it doesn’t look too promising.
It’s not unreasonable to bench him, but you can’t justify it for just anyone.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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