GAME TIME 6:35 CDTwhen izzy went down last september, wainwright stepped into the closer's role; with carpenter out, he's the closest thing the cardinals have to an ace. he leads the rotation in wins, era, innings, innings per start, and hr rate, and is second in quality starts (1 behind looper). here's how his season breaks down so far:
the two main changes: a lower walk rate and significantly better luck on balls in play. he was getting the shaft in the latter department in the first two months (as i documented here), hence the freakishly high BABIP in the first 9 starts --- about 100 points higher than league average. his luck has evened out; his BABIP for the year now stands at .318, which is still high but within a more or less normal range. i don't believe he was getting hit any harder in those first 9 starts --- his HR rate was actually lower then, and opponents' isolated power wasn't much higher in the first 9 games (.122) than in the last 9 (.112). so batters weren't putting better wood on the ball early in the year; they were simply getting more singles. batted balls were finding holes early on, and now they aren't.
the lower walk rate is more than just luck; that's a change in skill, and a good one. in the span of those last 9 starts (back to may 22, almost 2 months ago), wainwright ranks 9th among nl starting pitchers in era. in a season of really bad news, his development has been one of the bright spots.