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2014 VEB Community Projections: Adam Wainwright

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Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, at the age of 31, Adam Wainwright just had the best year of his career. While his K% of 22.9% hovered more or less around the average of his last three years (21.9%, 23.4%, 22.1%), he drastically cut his BB% to 3.7% after seeing 6.8%, 6.2%, and 6.3% in the three years prior.

There is one main reason for this: While his percentage of his pitches in the strike zone remained around his career average (48.9% vs 49.3% career), opponents swung at a much higher percentage of pitches outside of the zone than previously (34.5% of pitches outside of the zone were swung at, vs 30.4% career). If opponents are swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone, they're obviously taking fewer balls, which leads to a lower walk rate.

What we can't be sure of is if this is just random fluctuation, or if he's changed something to force this behavior out of batters. If the former, we can still take comfort in knowing that with health and that talent level, he's still a 4.5-5.0 WAR pitcher. If the latter, he's entering a distinct third phase in his pitching career. In his first phase, he was an above-average pitcher, with a ~6.0 K/9 and ~2.5 BB/9. In his second phase, he was one of the best 20 or so pitchers in baseball, seeing ~8.25 K/9 and ~2.5 BB/9. If this third phase is indeed a third phase, he'd be one of the best 5 or so pitchers in baseball, with ~8.25 K/9 and ~1.5 BB/9.

Stats via Fangraphs

Season

Team

Age

W

L

G

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

BABIP

ERA

2005

Cardinals

23

0

0

2

0

2

0

4.5

0.143

13.5

2006

Cardinals

24

2

1

61

0

75

8.64

2.64

0.283

3.12

2007

Cardinals

25

14

12

32

32

202

6.06

3.12

0.304

3.7

2008

Cardinals

26

11

3

20

20

132

6.2

2.32

0.272

3.2

2009

Cardinals

27

19

8

34

34

233

8.19

2.55

0.296

2.63

2010

Cardinals

28

20

11

33

33

230.1

8.32

2.19

0.275

2.42

2012

Cardinals

30

14

13

32

32

198.2

8.34

2.36

0.315

3.94

2013

Cardinals

31

19

9

34

34

241.2

8.16

1.3

0.305

2.94

Total

- - -


99

57

248

185

1314.2

7.72

2.3

0.295

3.11