Adam Wainwright went 5-0 in his first 5 starts in August with a tidy 1.47 ERA and .203 batting average against, and he looked to some as though he had finally made it all the way back from his Tommy John surgery. Then he blew up his last 2 starts to the tune of 11 earned runs in 7.2 innings with a 12.91 ERA and a .447 batting average against. Naturally, this led many fans to question whether or not he had hit a wall in terms of the workload demands placed on his surgically repaired right arm.
Waino has repeatedly insisted that the 173.2 innings pitched this season have in no way resulted in any soreness or weakness in his pitching arm. So, are his recent struggles due to fatigue/stamina issues? Arm slot? Lack of ritualistic sacrifices? Too much Jobu? Let’s go to the raw data and see…
Compare release point data from Wainwright’s last really good start against the same data from his 2 most recent bad outings. On August 21st, Wainwright went the distance against the Astros using a fairly typical mix of sinkers (34/105), cutters (36/105), and curveballs (25/105). He never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning, and he produced 9 whiffs just on his curveball alone. He topped out around 92 mph on his fastball, and he maintained his velocity through the entire game.
Now compare the above with Wainwright’s PitchFX data from his start on August 31st against the Nationals. His release point has now expanded on the horizontal plane, and his pitch selection has changed to include a much higher percentage of curveballs (32 of 86 pitches thrown). Furthermore, he threw 27 pitches in the first inning alone, and then he failed to make it out of the 3rd inning despite throwing 44 pitches to get 2 outs. Velocity averages and maximums for each of his pitches look almost identical to the equivalent numbers for his start against the Astros.
Now skip ahead to last night’s start. His release point still appears to be more loosely grouped in the horizontal plane than his release point information from the start against the Astros. Additionally, the entire grouping has dropped a few inches in the vertical plane as well. This time Wainwright went heavy on his sinker which he threw for 39 of his 85 pitches. Once again, all the velocity data looks normal.
However, the movement component of the data changes greatly over the course of these starts. More specifically, there appears to be a trend for both his sinker and his curveball.
- vs Astros – sinker (vert: 6.50, horiz: -8.61), curveball (vert: -9.45, horiz: 7.99)
- vs Nationals – sinker (vert: 6.79, horiz: -7.28), curveball (vert: -9.76, horiz: 9.71)
- vs Mets – sinker (vert: 5.77, horiz: -8.54), curveball (vert: -8.66, horiz: 8.32)
His career averages for both those pitches are as follows:
- sinker (vert: 8.12, horiz: -7.82)
- curveball (vert: -9.03, horiz: 8.04)
Based on a relatively small sample size, it appears that his sinker isn’t sinking as much as it should, and his curveball has been moving a bit more side-to-side. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from here. Is Waino moving his arm slot in an effort to guide the ball? Has he lost feel for locating his fastball? Is he worn out from all the pre-game dance routines?
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PitchFX data presented here courtesy of the awesome folks at BrooksBaseball.