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Notes on the Waino and the Parra

You know what?  F**k that game last night.  We are paying Matt Holliday 120 million for the sole purpose of driving in runs and protecting Albert, and he strands two runners on in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game.  That by itself doesn't mean much, but, Holliday ranks around 100th in baseball in RBI's this year (seriously) despite playing virtually every game this year and batting 4th in all of them, and Pujols is on pace to set a career high in intentional walks.   

On the other hand, going into last nights game, Holliday was the proud owner of a .307/.388/.473 slash line and ranked around 20th in WAR per FanGraphs at a very solid 2.0, so the context neutral stats have him right where we thought he would be - good average and on base percentage, decent power and solid defense.  I have to say this though, I think I agree with the traditional stats on this one.  The cruel irony is that Ludwick and Holliday have been equally productive with the bat this year overall, however, the former has been one of the best in baseball at hitting with runners on base while the latter has been one of the worst.  It might be a good idea to switch the two in the lineup for the time being.

Anyway, the rest of the game wasn't that bad.  Yes Miles started, but he actually saved us a run or two with his defense and was pinch hit for at the first sight of a right handed pitcher.  Stav even got a bloop single, which surely extended his lease on a roster spot for another month, and the the new Veteran Presence Randy Winn delivered a clutch sac fly to tie the game.  And for all of Parra's strikeout induced dominance, we were able to hit a couple of bombs off of him (more on that later).

Most encouraging perhaps is that Rasmus continued his hot streak against lefties, which will hopefully lead to less Randy Winn in center.  Look Randy, I know you just got here and that you are one of the rare sub-species of Proven Veterans that don't suck, but if you get in the way of Rasmus and his > .400 OBP playing everyday you will have a special place next to Nick Stavinoha in my heart.    

Jaime Garcia, despite not having much in the ways of stuff or command was able to work around an error and some BABIP luck to pick up a quality start (2 earned runs in 6 innings).  His ERA is now 1.47 in nearly 70 innings.  We are getting to the point in the season now where the Livan Hernandez's of the world start to regress and you don't just see guys like into sub 2.00 ERA's.  There are only two other starters this year with at least 50 innings pitched who are in Jaime territory: one is the silky smooth Ubaldo Jimenez and the other is Cliff Lee.  Of course there is NO WAY that Jaime finishes the year with an ERA this low, as it would be one of the best seasons in baseball history.  However, Jaime is already at 67.1 innings.  Assuming the Cardinals only let him pitch 150 this year, if he's able to put up a 3.5 ERA the rest of the way, he'll end the year with a 2.6 ERA which would place his season amongst the best among rookies of all time.  Jaime truly is a huge story for the Cardinals this year, and given his interesting mix of pitches, a Pitch f/xer's wet dream, so you will hopefully be hearing more about him next Monday.   

In the meantime, Jaime isn't the only pitcher in the Cardinals rotation, and there is a decent argument to be made that he has not even been the best.  Another tall lanky fellow by the name of A.D.A.M. has allowed nearly as few runs per 9 as Jaime this year, all while pitching more innings per start and putting up better peripherals to boot.  

Adam Wainwright has transformed this season into a true ace (which he was last year I think, but for the sake of the narrative yada yada yada).  Since his full time inauguration into the rotation into 2007, Wainwright has pitched progressively better each and every year:

2007 3.70 3.90 4.57 6.06
2008 3.20 3.78 4.06 6.20
2009 2.63 3.11 3.36 8.19
2010 2.05 2.61 3.07 8.69

His career ERA is now 3.03, which is starting to get into the ridiculous range.  He hasn't had a bad start since the beginning of last September, and is coming off arguably the best game of his career - a complete game 2 hit shutout - in his last start against the Brewers

Many of you on this very board doubt Waino's legitimacy to the Cy Young thrown this year, but I say "why not"?  So far in 2010, he is 2nd among national league starters in innings pitched, and among all those with at least 50 innings pitched this year, his ERA ranks 4th best, his FIP ranks 3rd best and his xFIP ranks 2nd best.  Only Roy Halladay has pitched better than Wainwright in all three ERA estimators and the differences between the two in each are essentially rounding errors.  Furthermore, Wainwright has a good record on a good team and should be able to hit the 20 win mark without much trouble.  Ubaldo Jimenez has been the most dominant this year and Roy Halladay has quietly continued his stoic ridiculousness; however, by all objective measures Wainwright has pitched just as well as those two this year and projects to pitch just as well in the future.  

Lastly, given how well Parra pitched against us last night, it pays to break down what the hell happened.  A quick glance at the numbers reveals that Parra has, *before* last nights game, a career 2.97 ERA against the Cardinals in 10 starts compared to a career ERA over 5.  And last night he struck out 10 fucking batters in just 5.1 innings.  Based on that you'd think he fits the profile of a crappy innings eater like Carlos Silva or Jon Garland, or given the information that he is a lefty, more of a Wade LeBlanc type.  In actuality, he is more like a left handed Bud Norris - a guy with very good stuff but not much in the way of control and an inability to pitch effectively against teams other than the Cardinals. 

And his stuff was very sharp last night.  According to the excellent Brooks Baseball and the suspect but probably good enough for these purposes MLB pitch classifications, his fastball averaged over 93 MPH with his splitter/changeup coming in at 85 and his big breaking curveball at 78.  Both of his offspeed pitches were particularly filthy being thrown for strikes over 72 percent of the time (league average ~60%) and being swung on and missed over 17 percent of the time (league average ~10%). 

The stuff on his curveball was pretty freaking good as we all saw, having 5 inches of movement each way.  His changeup/splitter also seems to be a pretty great pitch having a large differential in both speed and vertical movement compared to his fastball.  His location, on the other hand, while good enough, was nothing special:

Against RHH, while he generally kept the ball down, he also hung a significant amount of pitches, both fastballs and offspeed pitches alike:



Click for a larger image.  The 'FT', 'FS' and 'CH' in the above graph are all just the same pitch I believe - the changeup - so you can treat them as such.  While he threw some pretty good offspeed pitches below the strike zone, he was also prone to bouts of wildness and was all over the plate on a lot of his pitches.  I can count at least 7 or 8 hanging offspeed pitches that probably should have been rocked, and another 10 or so fastballs like that.  Ideally it would be better to compare this with some of his other games against less St. Louisy teams, but that's just not happening tonight.

Against lefties his stuff was better located, especially his curveball, but he only faced one left handed bat all night and that one hit a smooth homer off of him in the second inning, so that clearly wasn't the source of his dominance.  Barring further review, I'm gonna chock this one up to the Cardinals just being the Cardinals and nothing particularly special that Manny Parra did.  His stuff has always been quite good and his failure as a major league pitcher thus far has stemmed from his inability to command his stuff.  He didn't do much of the latter last night, but for whatever reason that Cardinals let him get away with it (and with 6 additional baserunners to the two home runs, he could have easily had a usual Parra start) and took some bad at bats. 

Still the amount of times that we fail against bad pitchers (seriously, does this happen to every team?) is starting to become some multiple of a serious number, and while it's probably just luck, it's annoying as hell.  At any rate, the Cardinals enter a three game set against the Dodgers, the last of which will be attended by yours truly.  So I am incredibly excited to watch Wainwright beat the crap out of what should be my home team.