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Thursday, August 24, 2023

‘Not how I wanted to go out’: Can Adam Wainwright’s quest for 200 revive fuming Cardinals?

One day past reaching precisely 18 years of service time in the majors and one start away from possibly reaching that elusive 199th career win, Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright came one pitch, maybe one play away from a briefer fifth inning.

But this is the 2023 Cardinals.

Whatever can go wrong will go worse.

The two narrative threads of these late-season Cardinals — their losing season and Wainwright’s quest for a winning finish — tightened Tuesday night into a rope around their ankles and tugged them ever deeper into the standings, ever faster into an undertow of frustration. A 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park dropped the Cardinals to 17 games beneath .500 for the first time this season. They’re 0-5 in Pittsburgh this season with one game remaining there. A sideways fifth inning meant Wainwright would go a ninth consecutive start without a win, two months and counting since win No. 198….

“It’s been a weird year. It’s been a funky year. We haven’t had a year like this since I’ve been here,” Wainwright said. “If you have only one of these every 18, that’s not a terrible ratio. I know everyone in here — it’s just driving them crazy. It’s driving me crazy. It’s not how I wanted to go out.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2023 at 04:38 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: adam wainwright, cardinals

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2023 at 04:42 PM (#6139467)
Pitchers with 15+ starts, and an ERA over 8 since 1900:

Adam Wainwright 2023, STL 8.61
Jonathan Sanchez 2012, COL/KC 8.07
Hideo Nomo 2004, LAD 8.25
Chad Durbin 2000, KCR 8.21
Mark Clark 1999, TEX 8.60
Todd Van Poppel 1996, DET/OAK 9.06
Steve Blass 1973, PIT 9.85
Ed Holley 1934, PHI/PIT 8.12
   2. Take a Dictation from Zonk Posted: August 24, 2023 at 07:58 PM (#6139485)
In a 10-15 years ago edition of OOTP, I managed to goose Jamie Moyer over 300 wins.

I did *not* put him the rotation. I spot-started him against dreadful teams, spot-relieved him to finish innings in tie games, and brought him for some middle innings in the 4th in blowout games.

It was a lot of work, but I managed to get him the 30some wins he needed over two seasons.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: August 24, 2023 at 08:14 PM (#6139490)
There's a simple answer here for Wainwright: if he had 188 wins, or 208, would be still be pitching?

I think the answer is a clear "no."

That should inform him of what to do. 200 is just a number.
   4. The Duke Posted: August 24, 2023 at 09:12 PM (#6139499)
Fangraphs had him at -.4 when I last looked and bWAR was at -2.5. I can't imagine how he could be at -.4. I wonder if the math for WAR even makes sense in those situations.

In his 17 starts he's gone a total of 77 innings and the Cardinals are 5-12. In four of the five wins the Cardinals have had they have scored 8,8,10,16 runs. So, conceivably they could be 1-16.

I don't know what the impact is on literally handing a game away every 5 days, but it has to really impact a team to know they have almost no chance of winning.

If they run him out there 6 more starts, he may turn in the worst performance ever. What is considered the worst SP year ever ?

   5. salvomania Posted: August 25, 2023 at 10:28 AM (#6139518)
Wainwright's 2023 has already dropped his career ERA+ from 118 to 113.

Career ERA+ of 118 includes guys like Bert Blyleven, Tom Glavine, and Cliff Lee.

Career ERA+ of 113 includes guys like Larry Jackson, Brad Radke, and Tom Gordon.
   6. salvomania Posted: August 25, 2023 at 12:15 PM (#6139526)
Keep in mind that only 65 MLB pitchers have 2000+ IP and an ERA+ of at least 120---and most of those guys are in the HoF.

So an ERA+ of 118 over a long career is pretty rarefied air.

There are still plenty of HoFers with an ERA+ below 118 or so, but they're mostly guys who had huge peaks (Robin Roberts--113, Fergie Jenkins--115) or else were long-time compilers (Niekro--115), or both (Carlton--115).
   7. BDC Posted: August 25, 2023 at 12:24 PM (#6139528)
Wow, Carlton's ERA+ was 121 for his first 21 seasons and then dropped to 115 after his last three seasons.

But maybe that's not unusual. David Cone did have a career ERA+ of 121, for instance, but going into his final three seasons it was 129.
   8. nick swisher hygiene Posted: August 25, 2023 at 12:37 PM (#6139530)
He's writing his ticket out of the HoF this year (at least, that would be the correct outcome, imo)
   9. BDC Posted: August 25, 2023 at 01:00 PM (#6139532)
Most similar careers to Wainwright's by ERA+ and Games Started.

Waite Hoyt is the only Hall of Famer, and arguably a "mistake" (Hoyt is not in the HOM). Hoyt pitched a lot more in relief than Wainwright has, pitched in more World Series (usually well), and was a long-time announcer, which I think is a factor in many HOF votes.

Excellent group of pitchers, naturally.

Player                 WAR ERA+  GS   W   L   G SV     IP
Waite Hoyt            54.3  112 425 237 182 674 53 3762.1
Larry Jackson         52.6  113 429 194 183 558 20 3262.2
Wilbur Cooper         48.9  116 406 216 178 517 14 3480.0
Dwight Gooden         48.1  111 410 194 112 430  3 2800.2
Frank Viola           47.1  112 420 176 150 421  0 2836.1
Bucky Walters         46.5  116 398 198 160 428  4 3104.2
Steve Rogers          45.1  116 393 158 152 399  2 2837.2
Larry French          45.0  114 383 197 171 570 17 3152.0
Al Leiter             42.5  112 382 162 132 419  2 2391.0
Adam Wainwright       40.1  113 407 198 126 474  3 2644.2
Freddie Fitzsimmons   33.6  112 424 217 146 513 13 3223.2 

Provided by View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2023.
   10. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: August 25, 2023 at 02:16 PM (#6139535)
Hoyt is also an excellent Immaculate Grid player. Wainwright... not so much.
   11. salvomania Posted: August 25, 2023 at 02:20 PM (#6139536)
He's writing his ticket out of the HoF this year (at least, that would be the correct outcome, imo)

Yeah, I don't think anyone is seriously arguing that Wainwright is (or could have been with a better final season) a HoFer.

Had he not missed almost three prime MLB seasons (plus a 4th full season, in the minors) with injuries, it might have been another story, but that's the case with dozens of guys.

Now, he will be a *Cardinals* HoFer. But not the big one in Cooperstown. And that's OK---still had a helluva career with a lot of great moments, and he seems like someone who genuinely loves what he does and appreciates the ride he's had.
   12. Stevey Posted: August 25, 2023 at 03:18 PM (#6139540)
I can't imagine how he could be at -.4. I wonder if the math for WAR even makes sense in those situations.

They are starting at some pretty darn different points. His FIP, which FG uses, is ~only~ 6.02, while his RA9, which B-R uses, is 9.31.
   13. salvomania Posted: August 25, 2023 at 04:50 PM (#6139549)
His FIP, which FG uses, is ~only~ 6.02

Yeah, fWAR kinda ignores the 14+ hits per 9 innings Wainwright is allowing, I guess because that's just bad luck/bad defense.
   14. Ron J Posted: August 25, 2023 at 08:14 PM (#6139563)
fWAR is based primarily on FIP and FIP makes the assumption that hit avoidance isn't a big skill for major league pitchers. That's mostly true (for certain values of mostly), but Wainwright may simply no longer have major league stuff, which breaks all assumptions about balls in play.
   15. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 25, 2023 at 09:03 PM (#6139566)
I think FIP is prone to break down for old pitchers who have reached the end. There's a certain minimal amount of stuff you have to have, below which major league hitters will just light you up no matter what you do. Generally the only pitchers who are ever able to stay below that level, yielding sky high BABIPs, for longer than about five starts without losing their jobs are ex-stars at the end of the line.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: August 26, 2023 at 05:02 PM (#6139610)
Back in the early days of DIPS, I downloaded the Lahman database, and, for every pitcher-season, checked whether they were outside the 95% confidence interval based on league BABIP and BIP.** (Or maybe BIP estimate, not sure the database had all the info for BIP yet.) Sure enough it all came out about right except that there were a number of low-IP seasons where pitchers gave up lots of hits.

That's not a big surprise because if you give up a lot of hits in a few innings, the team is less likely to give you more innings. That is they might have expected you to give them, say, 70 innings of relief that year but you were so bad in your first 15 innings that you got released or demoted, even if that was just "bad luck."

But the other thing I noticed was the names of a lot of excellent pitchers in the "really bad season" pile. Digging a bit deeper, there were a lot of very young rookie "seasons" and very old "farewll whether they knew it or not" seasons. In the first 160 innings of his career, Gibson gave up a 325 BABIP; in the last 110 he gave up a 313. In between he gave up a 269. Maybe that was luck. (That said, for pitchers, unless you think HRs are mostly random too, I think you want to look at what happens on all contact not what happens on BIP. Giving up a league average number of hits while having a low BABIP is not good performance.)

I've forgotten Mr. Diamond Mind's name but he came up with something similar when the DIPS controversy was in full swing. He looked at aging patterns for pitcher BABIP allowed and he at least concluded what seems sensible -- young pitchers are still learning and have above-average BABIPs, old pitchers are nearing the end and have above-average BABIPs; but in their primes, pitchers are consistently better than average.

Which is just a long-winded agreement that, in all likelihood, Wainwright's stuff is no longer ML-quality and so FIP/DIPS doesn't really work. I recall Szym at one point looked at BABIP for position player pitchers and, no surprise, it was a good bit higher (though I vaguely recall not nearly as bad as we might think). I assume Wainwright is still better than the standard position player pitcher but that's not saying much.

** For the nerds out there, I don't recall if I did exact tests on the smaller sample sizes. Probably not unless the software did it automatically.
   17. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: August 28, 2023 at 10:25 AM (#6139767)
Tom Tippett?

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