Even though the Cubs and Cardinals have no real playoff prospects, ESPN will still have the telecast for tonight’s 8 p.m. ET first pitch. At least the World Wide Leader picked a solid pitching matchup, as Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Baby Bears and Adam Wainwright will be on the Busch Stadium bump for the Redbirds.
We saw an offensive explosion yesterday from these two subpar slugging teams, but you’ll get that sometimes with Trevor Williams and Johan Oviedo, who slotted in for the Cardinals, as they needed a starter. The Cardinals have frankly needed starters most of the season with all of their injury issues, but Wainwright’s season has been a godsend.
Well, let’s expand on that a little bit. The way that Adam Wainwright’s starts have fallen this season has been a godsend. The 39-year-old has well-defined home/road splits. I’ve talked about it a lot, but let’s go with it again anyway. Since 2016, Wainwright has posted wOBAs against of .374, .389, .352, .360, .266, and .340 on the road. The sample sizes are all over the map, as he only pitched three games in 2018 and four games in 2020, but you get the idea anyway.
Wainwright, by ERA, has gone 6.18 in 17 games in 2016, 7.32 in 13 games in 2017, 4.38 in three games in 2018, 6.22 in 15 games in 2019, 3.00 in four games in 2020, and now 5.35 in seven games in 2021.
At home, however, Wainwright has gone .298, .291, .314, .303, .284, and .264 in the wOBA department. By ERA, he is 3.20 in 16 games in 2016, 3.08 in 11 games in 2017, 4.50 in five games in 2018, 2.56 in 16 games in 2019, 3.24 in six games in 2020, and 2.84 in 11 games in 2021.
Suffice it to say that Wainwright is a far better pitcher at Busch Stadium. It is a much more forgiving environment to pitch than most road parks. In fact, it has been such a good pitching environment that MLB added a humidor there prior to the season.
So Wainwright has a 3.71 ERA with a 4.07 FIP this season in 111.2 innings. To be fair, it isn’t all because of how his starts have fallen. His K% is up to its highest level since 2013, but he’s pitched 73 innings at home and 38.2 innings on the road. His slash line against at home is .206/.266/.341 with a .264 wOBA and .268/.341/.444 with a .340 wOBA on the road. His BABIP against at home is .245 and it sits at .309 on the road.
Add Wainwright’s home numbers to this poor Cubs offense and it sure looks like a low offensive projection for Chicago.
The Cubs send Kyle Hendricks to the hill and Hendricks is a perfect case study as to why you have to put full-season sample sizes in the proper context. Hendricks has a 3.65 ERA, the second-highest of his career, and a 4.76 FIP, the highest of his career. He’s made 19 starts over 111 innings of work.
Should we grade Hendricks on his first seven starts of the season? He had a 6.23 ERA with a 6.69 FIP. He gave up 11 home runs in his first 34.2 innings of the season. He ran a 28.2% HR/FB%.
For the last two months, across 12 starts, Hendricks has a 2.48 ERA with a 3.88 FIP. He’s got a 10.2% HR/FB% and has allowed nine home runs total, but only one in his last six starts. The FIP is high, but Hendricks is always a guy that runs a lower ERA than his FIP because he doesn’t record a lot of strikeouts. In this span, his walk rate is even better than what we typically see from him at 4.3%.
The Cubs are 10-2 in those 12 Hendricks starts and he is 12-0 in them. He has only allowed eight runs in his last six starts. This is the Kyle Hendricks that we’ve come to expect from the Cubs. This is the guy with the elite command that we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing. His average exit velo in that span is 86.6 mph and his Hard Hit% is down to 33.5%.
So, yes, I’m on the under today.