Sunday, June 23, 2013
Reasons for Wainwright's success
By Buster Olney
ST. LOUIS -- Oh sure, Adam Wainwright would rather have been on the field in 2011 doing what he loves to do. But he explained on Saturday that while he has always loved baseball, he sort of renewed his vows with the sport that summer as he went through his long recovery from reconstructive elbow surgery.
|Adam Wainwright has a 11.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, by far the best in baseball.|
When the Cardinals were on the road, Wainwright and his wife, Jenny, structured their days around watching the team play, and enjoyed it so much that Jenny told Adam that when his playing days are over, she wants to get the television package that enables them to see all the major league games.
But for Wainwright, that year of watching everybody else play had a practical impact on how he thinks on the mound and how he pitches. He had always had very good command, but since he's come back, his control has been historically great because of a philosophical change that he adopted in his time of reflection.
Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN) against the Texas Rangers, with more wins (10) this season than walks allowed.
“It's a matter of making an intentional, solid choice to go out there to go out and attack hitters,” said Wainwright.
Wainwright grew up in Georgia and liked watching Russ Ortiz pitch. Ortiz was a battler, never giving in, never throwing meatball fastballs in hitters' counts; it's a very passive-aggressive way of pitching, and it served Ortiz well in his career.
“In my mind, it was great that he never gave in,” said Wainwright. “When he got into a big spot, he knew who was on deck, and he never gave in.”
But as Wainwright reflected on that, he said he thought also about how Chris Carpenter, Cliff Lee and other aggressive strike-throwers went after hitters without any thought of who was on deck.
“What that did for me was put more emphasis on the pitch I was throwing,” he said. “I made less mistakes that way. Now I can attack hitters more than I ever have.”
That 2011 season, he said, he realized how much he loved baseball when he had it taken from him. So when he and Jenny watched games together, he was an active viewer -- keeping a spiral notebook by his side, jotting down notes and thoughts about what he saw.
“I wanted to know what made pitchers great,” he said. “I wanted to know what made Carp great, what made Cliff Lee great, what made Roy Halladay great. On the other hand, what could I do better that could take my game to the next level?”
It's happened. Wainwright is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.37 ERA, the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career (a staggering 11.11, which, if he carries it out over the full season, will be the greatest of all time) and a more efficient approach.
Wainwright's pitches per inning
The Cardinals need more from Wainwright Sunday night, given that Texas has taken the first two games of this series. Martin Perez -- who has been working on controlling his emotions on the mound -- had a strong start Saturday.
• Max Scherzer has reached a stage in his incredible 2013 season in which every time he has success, he's mingling with legends in his performance.
From ESPN Stats and Information:
Max Scherzer moved to 11-0 on the season Saturday, throwing seven innings of two-run ball to lead the Tigers to a 10-3 win over the Red Sox. He's just the fifth starting pitcher in the past 40 years to start a season 11-0 or better and the first to do it since Roger Clemens in 1997. Three of the previous four to start a season like that went on to win the Cy Young Award.
Scherzer struck out six, running his streak of starts with six or more strikeouts to 15. That's the longest streak by any pitcher to begin the season since Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson did it in 2000 and tied for the fourth longest in modern baseball history.
From the Elias Sports Bureau, most consecutive starts with at least six K's to begin a season in AL history:
2000 -- Pedro Martinez, 29
2013 -- Max Scherzer, 15 (active streak, includes Saturday)
1999 -- Pedro Martinez, 15
2001 -- Pedro Martinez, 14
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Scherzer beat the Red Sox:
A. After allowing two runs and three hits in the first inning, Scherzer would settle down and allow only three hits the rest of the way. He threw 76 percent fastballs in the first -- and allowed two hits with the pitch -- but threw just 52 percent fastballs the rest of the way (one hit allowed).
B. With seven lefties in the Red Sox lineup, Scherzer threw a career-high 31 percent changeups. He kept 70 percent of his changeups down in the zone, his second-highest percentage this season.
C. Scherzer threw 75 percent of his fastballs on the outer third or further outside, his highest percentage in the last five seasons. All four of his fastball strikeouts came on pitches in that location.
D. Scherzer didn't walk a batter for the third time this season despite going to six three-ball counts. Three of his six strikeouts came with the count full, tied for his most in the last two seasons.
• Drew Sharp thinks Scherzer has won the right to start the All-Star Game.
Around the league
• That's 10 straight wins for the Blue Jays, and counting.
• Lance Berkman, a member of the 2011 Cardinals team that repeatedly ripped the guts out of the Rangers in the greatest World Series of all time, has enjoyed teasing his new Texas teammates about all of that. “To the victors go the spoils,” Berkman said with a smile, as part of an interview that we may show on "Sunday Night Baseball." After the on-camera discussion, Berkman detailed his verbal (good-natured) torture of the other Rangers, saying that he has asked them whether the Texas clubhouse was more silent after Game 6 or Game 7.
• On a recent conference call, Dan Shulman posed a really interesting question: If you were thinking about winning only one championship in a given season and had all the players to choose from, would catcher Yadier Molina be the first guy you'd take?
The selection would be smart for a few reasons. He hits: He currently leads the NL with a .358 batting average. He directs the defense: The Cardinals' position players credit him with making subtle but pivotal adjustments in the field. And he is widely regarded as the best defensive catcher of his time.
General managers will tell you that of all the deficiencies in defensive metrics, there isn't really a great way to enumerate the work that catchers do. So you look at pieces and parts, and Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Info dug these out:
Most wins above replacement -- catchers, from Baseball-Reference:
Most defensive runs saved by catchers
Yadier Molina -- 10.5
Buster Posey -- 10.3
Joe Mauer -- 7.7
* Since start of 2012 season
Yadier Molina -- 46
Jeff Mathis -- 32
Matt Wieters -- 26
Most innings per steal attempt in the last five seasons
Yadier Molina -- 18.1
Henry Blanco -- 14.0
Salvador Perez -- 13.7
Ryan Hanigan -- 13.6
* Among catchers who caught 1,000 innings and are still active
• Arizona has been looking for a starter and a reliever -- like most or all of the NL West teams -- and so it likely will work from the growing menu of pitchers expected to be available, from Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers to Jesse Crain of the White Sox to Matt Garza of the Cubs, etc. They should be getting Aaron Hill back from the disabled list Sunday.
• Heath Bell is really struggling, and he gave up a save-blowing home run Saturday, but the Diamondbacks came through with a big rally against Aroldis Chapman.
• The Padres are interested in Jake Arrieta, writes Bill Center. This is like a Chris Davis situation: Everybody sees the talent in Arrieta, and the question is whether it'll translate at some point. For the Padres, it's a smart buy-low pursuit.
• Crain is regarded as the No. 1 target on the current market for relievers, and he showed why on Saturday.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates have the second-best record in the majors after Francisco Liriano's latest outing.
• From Elias: Jay Bruce has eight homers in his last nine games, matching the second-most homers in a nine-game span in Reds history. Only Frank Robinson had more (nine) over a nine-game span, in August 1962.
• Dan Haren's latest performance raised questions about whether he has a future in the Washington rotation, writes Amanda Comak. Haren is well-respected within the sport, but a number of teams passed on him in the winter because of the concerns about his hip -- including the Cubs, who scuttled a proposed trade with the Angels over the medicals.
• The Rays-Yankees game Saturday was full of subplots and back stories, writes Bob Klapisch.
Mariano Rivera -- most saves through June 22
2004 -- 27
2013 -- 26
2001 -- 22
1997 -- 22
Dings and dents
1. Bryce Harper and Davey Johnson have different opinions about what's going to happen with his injury rehabilitation assignment. One interesting question: What is causing the swelling and inflammation in Harper's knee?
2. Derek Jeter looked good while working out at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
3. Brandon Beachy is going to test his right elbow.
4. The Giants are dealing with a whole bunch of injuries, Henry Schulman writes.
5. Alex Avila is ready to start his injury rehab assignment.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Ike Davis will remain in Triple-A.
2. Nelson Cruz is entrenched as the No. 3 hitter for the Rangers.
3. Franklin Gutierrez was activated.
4. Carlos Beltran wants to play in St. Louis beyond this year, writes Bernie Miklasz.
My opinion: The only way the Cardinals might consider that would be if Beltran was willing to take a big cut in pay -- and even then, St. Louis may still politely decline. St. Louis has other outfield options on the way, from the highly touted Oscar Taveras to Allen Craig, who could be moved from first base when Matt Adams is installed. To me, the Cardinals' choice would come down to this: Would they prefer to keep Beltran over the cheaper and younger Adams? Because if Beltran is on the team, then Craig must play first base, and there's no room left for Adams.
5. Joe Kelly is the No. 5 starter for the Cardinals.
6. Bronson Arroyo wants to stay.
1. Vernon Wells got a big hit.
2. The Giants finally conquered the Marlins.
3. The Rockies tried a slump-buster, and it worked.
4. Zack Greinke was The Man for the Dodgers.
5. The Royals -- baseball's most confounding team -- have lost four in a row.
6. The Indians hung on.
7. The Cubs lost again.
• Zoilo Almonte now has four hits and four RBIs combined in his first two career starts. According to Elias, he is the third player in Yankees history with at least four hits and four RBIs combined in his first two career starts (Brian Dayett in 1983 and Lou Gehrig in 1923 are the others).
• Darren O'Day and Jose Bautista had words.
• Allen Webster got roughed up.
• Will Middlebrooks' sophomore slump has a familiar ring to it.
• Wil Myers's first home run in the big leagues was a grand slam in Yankee Stadium. Marc Topkin has everything you'd want to know about Myers here.
• P.J. Walters had a really bad day, Brian Murphy writes.
• The Astros pulled together a great comeback victory.
• Oakland's bullpen faltered.
• Dan Straily's time on the mound is getting shorter, writes John Hickey.
Howie Kendrick doesn't want to mess with a good thing.
• The Braves have simply stopped hitting: They have been shut out 11 times, the most in the majors, including twice in the past two days by the Brewers.
• For his manager, Jose Fernandez brings back memories of Dontrelle Willis.
• Gerrit Cole has been able to maintain his velocity.
• Pedro Alvarez keeps blasting home runs.
• K-Rod reached a milestone.
• The Rockies know that replacing Troy Tulowitzki is not going to be easy, writes Troy Renck.
• Don Mattingly still has the support of the front office, writes Bill Shaikin.
• Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle is confident.
• Gary Sheffield has one client, and that client is having an All-Star-caliber season.
And today will be better than yesterday.