Trade Me Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright‘s last start was a match up with an historically bad offense and it was such a no brainer that he was my starting pitcher pick in “The Game” here on Fangraphs. Seven runs and 11 hits over five innings pitched versus the Pittsburgh Pirates later, I felt rather duped. And yet, I’m still bullish on Adam Wainwright.

Here’s what I know. Between 2007 and 2008, Adam Wainwright was a very good starting pitcher. Between 2009 and 2010, he was great. You wanted Adam Wainwright on your fantasy team, and you wanted him badly. I just know it.

And then we know about elbow surgery.

But despite it being a particularly damning diagnosis in the short term, Tommy John surgery isn’t quite as terrifying as it used to be since we’ve seen so many pitchers return to have successful post-surgery careers. Often times, we see pitchers simply scraping off the rust after spending the better part of a year recovering and rehabbing and not throwing baseballs. But their skills often return.

With Wainwright, we’re probably seeing a lot of that rust, but I think we’re also seeing some good old fashioned rotten luck.

So let’s start with the bad. Wainwright has given up 102 hits over 96.2 innings pitched, the first time since 2007 that he’s surrendering more than a hit per inning. He’s given up ten home runs, putting him on pace to set a personal “high”. His ERA stands at 4.75, which would be far and away the highest of his career, and his WHIP is 1.34, the highest in four seasons. This is what you’re hoping his current owner is staring at.

The good news is, the predictors are all crying foul. Whichever you may prefer, FIP, xFIP, or SIERA – they all have him in the low to mid 3’s. Wainwright is striking out batters at a a rate right in line with his old self with a 22% strikeout rate, and he’s still got the same good control that he’s shown over the last several seasons with a walk rate below 7%. What’s killing him right now is a 66% strand rate (75.8% career), a 14.5% HR/FB rate (8.2% career), and an opponent BABIP of .326 (.292 career). These last three rates really ought to regress towards career norms, and if you believe at all the notion that he’s still getting comfortable after the long layoff, it should only contribute to that sentiment.

But there lies a gray area with Wainwright. In 2010, he threw his sinker and cut fastball almost 70% of the time, and with great results. His cutter was 10 runs above average and his sinker wasn’t far behind at 8.3. This year, he’s relied more heavily on his cutter than his sinker in terms of mix of pitches and his velocity as dropped about a full mph on his sinker, and the results have been underwhelming. Both pitches are at 3.5 runs below average. His curve ball remains an effective pitch, but one can go to the yacker only so often.

Additionally, his batted ball data is a little troubling. He’s giving up far more line drives in 2012 than we’ve seen from him in his career and it has actually earned him an expected BABIP of over .350, suggesting that his current .326 rate is actually rather gracious. Most of the damage has come against right handed batters where he’s seen his line drive rate double on curve balls thrown. This could certainly be a “feel” thing, however – but it’s tough to tease that out of the data.

My bet is that he gets his gopher balling under control and that his strand rate starts to trend towards something more league-average. If he can continue to miss bats at the same rate and induce the number of ground balls he’s generating, he’s going to be successful. And again, if you’re a believer in the post-TJ-settling-in-period, you could well have a front line starter on your hands in the second half.

This last outing against the Pirates might provide the best opportunity yet to grab Waino on the cheap. Monitor his next couple starts if your trigger finger isn’t quite itchy enough, but it won’t require much evidence for his current owners to put him on lock down, so you may want to strike while things look their worst.




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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.


22 Responses to “Trade Me Adam Wainwright”

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  1. Nick says:

    He’s been so inconsistent. He looked good for the first four innings against Pitt and then blew up in the 5th. I have him and Matt Moore and they’ve killed my ERA/WHIP. Can’t complain about the k’s, but it’s tough to keep sending them out there.

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  2. Jason says:

    Despite the Pirates’ poor reputation, they’ve been very opportunistic this year. They shouldn’t be considered a streaming target without reservation. I certainly would have started Wainwright against them, but there’s no reason to see his failure as indicative of larger problems.

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  3. Brandon says:

    Who would you offer for him in H2H, 16-team mixed, points league. I have the following:
    Hiroki Kuroda
    Jarrod Parker
    Gio Gonzalez
    Felix Doubront
    Matt Cain
    Edwin Jackson
    Andrew Cashner
    Ricky Nolasco
    Thanks.

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    • Jason says:

      My guess is his owner wouldn’t take less than Gio or Kuroda, but I’d offer Jackson or Cashner. Parker is on the bubble.

      Doubront and Nolasco don’t rate, and Cain is too reliable.

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      • Keith says:

        Gio and Kuroda are a HUGE gap in value. I wouldn’t trade Gio for Kuroda AND Wainwright, for example.

        I would probably offer Kuroda and Cashner, since it’s looking like Cashner isn’t going to get much chance to provide good value this season (e’s out for at least 3-4 weeks, though possibly longer).

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      • Jason says:

        I don’t think Gio is really going to outperform Kuroda ROS. Though I’ll admit there’s a large gap in perceived value.

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  4. PlateTectonics says:

    Good article, though I’m not sure I *fully* agree. The drop in effectiveness of his curveball may play a more significant factor than is mentioned. I think he’s simply lost some feel for his yakker — you could actually say he’s overthrowing it. Not throwing it harder velo-wise, but he’s been getting more movement in both planes with it this year with markedly more rotational spin than back in ’09 and ’10 (according to Texas Leaguers). He also appears to be missing in with it or driving it into the dirt more frequently. So it’s much less effective than he’s used to and he’s throwing it a fair bit less as a result — certainly expected for someone coming off of TJ. I’ll be watching him closely, with hopes that he regains his feel for the pitch. Looking forward, he could be significantly undervalued heading into ’13 but I’m not making a play for him this year yet.

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  5. B-Unit says:

    I own waino and would only take Gio or Kuroda…

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    • Ned says:

      I own Waino, and I’d have to be paid cash money to give him up for (lmao) Kuroda. Gio, maybe, and certainly Cain would be the only options on that list. I’m very Bullish on his progress!

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  6. B-Unit says:

    …and of course Cain

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  7. Troy says:

    Could you see him going for someone like P. Hughes? Or AJ Brunett? I tried to get him about a month ago, and had a deal in place to send C. Hammels and J. Reddick for Waino and A. Gonzalez, but I thougth at that time I was giving up to much in performance for risk of guys turning it around. Has his price taged changed in the last month?

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    • mcbrown says:

      I gather from the questions posed here that it seems people think they can get Wainwright in a challenge trade (straight up for another pitcher). I don’t know about other people’s leagues, but in the ones I play in pitchers are usually traded for hitters, or starters for relievers, or as part of a larger deal. Pitcher challenge trades rarely get done because by definition there is no comparative advantage element for either side, and people are nervous about getting fleeced (i.e. “if he is offering me another pitcher, that pitcher must be worse, so I can’t accept this trade”).

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      • CptSpandex says:

        mcbrown,

        I agree with you and tend to operate the same way — the only difference is I call them lateral moves. Really, what is the benefit of trading two players at the same position for comparable value, unless you get a massive return by selling someone on their “crush” players. I was recently offered James Shields for Tommy Hanson in a league and really didn’t see the logic in a trade like that.

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  8. Ken Erdedy says:

    I’ve been offered Waino and Konerko for Strasburg. It’s a keeper league, but Stras will cost a first round pick while I could keep Waino next year in the teens. My other SPs are Gio/Sale/Lynn/Matt Harrison (Cashner now on DL).

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    • CptSpandex says:

      In keeper formats, I’d hang on to Strasburg. Remember, your “first round” keeper is really the first round after however many number of keepers you keep are off the board. If it’s not set and based on draft position alone, consider who will be kept. I don’t think I would let Strasburg go. You might have the best pitcher in baseball for the next decade in a keeper format. That’s value no matter what round keeper pick you lose.

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  9. Brandon says:

    I don’t know how much of a positive change to expect in his BABIP – the Cardinals defense is poor. Logic suggests that pitchers who throw in front of 26th ranked UZR defenses to have below career average BABIPs.

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  10. Matt says:

    In a relatively small (10 team) league that uses Quality Starts instead of wins, I believed in Wainwright enough to give Kenley Jansen and Trevor Bauer for him about a week ago….

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  11. lester bangs says:

    A curve is a *yakker.* A yacker is some guy throwing up in the parking lot.

    I agree with Brandon’s point on St. Louis’s terrible defense.

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  12. Dan says:

    I just got Waino for Nelly Cruz. I think Cruz is going nowhere but down, so getting a potential top 20 pitcher the rest of the year gets me pretty good value for him. Also, OF is easy to find in my league- plenty of good FA to choose from.

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  13. Ned says:

    Cruz likes the end of the season and plays every day. That said, he’s a good trade for Waino because in many leagues, Cruz is possibly available on the wire.

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    • Ned says:

      I take that all back. I was thinking of someone else. Still, not a bad deal. Pretty even, and it depends on your needs.

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