Adam Wainwright hasn’t been the best pitcher in baseball over the past decade or so, but he’s probably been my favorite watch. Smart pitcher, dandy curveball (sorry Beltran), competitive, accountable after the game. Watching Wainwright work to Yadier Molina has been a consistent joy.
Wainwright never won a Cy Young Award, but he did finish second three times.
The last few years have been frustrating ones. Wainwright missed most of 2015 with a blown-out Achilles, and he was a mediocre pitcher last year (4.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). You had to wonder if Wainwright was just about cooked heading into his age-35 season. Just three weeks ago, his ERA sat at 6.37.
But maybe the tide is changing. Maybe Wainwright has something left to show us, and to give us.
The big right-hander is on a four-game winning streak, with the latest a six-inning bagel parade against Los Angeles on Thursday (4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). Wainwright threw in a two-run homer to carry the offense.
Wainwright’s allowed zero or one run in each of his past four starts, including the treacherous assignment at Colorado. Here’s the sum: 26.1 IP, 16 H, 1 R, 10 BB, 21 K. His ERA has trimmed to a more-acceptable 3.79.
But is Wainwright’s snappy comeback enough to get us invested again? His K/BB rate is hardly over two for this stretch, and that’s a suspiciously-low number in today’s game. A .222 BABIP and a spotless HR/FB rate are also significant parts of the story.
The funky thing about Wainwright’s monthly splits is that they defend his April starts. He had a 3.24 xFIP in April, then a 4.75 xFIP in May (not counting Thursday’s June start, of course). His strikeout rate was over nine in April; it’s sagged to 6.5/9 since. He has been inducing more soft contact of late, which is driving some of the results. His fastball velocity is basically unchanged.
I’m giving Wainwright a trial in a league or two — he was on my F&F streamer list Thursday, and the strong turn earned him the right to stay. At Cincinnati next week, I’ll take my chances. After that, he gets a favorable draw against Philadelphia. Maybe there’s another fantasy-relevant stretch coming from No. 50.
I know you’re not supposed to get emotional about the stocks — Gordon Gekko taught us that — but long may you run, Waino. I’m back in. I can’t help it.
• Every Yankee that wants in on a block party at Toronto, step forward.
Not so fast, Chris Carter.
Although the New York lineup can’t match what’s going on in Houston — no one can — this version of the Bronx Bombers is acquitting itself well. Check out the AL ranks: second in runs, third in homers, third in average, first in OBP, second in slugging. They’ve been dangerous in all venues too: first in home OPS, third in road OPS. This group can and will can mess you up.
Aaron Hicks had the prettiest line of the box, a 5-2-4-6 jamboree. Hicks doubled three times, singled once, and raised his slash to .317/.437/.579. Don’t forget he also has eight homers and seven steals in just 126 at-bats. His breakout story looks legitimate at age 27; he’s the No. 13 outfielder in the Yahoo game to this point.
That said, what are the Yankees going to do when Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) comes back? Hicks was playing semi-regularly before Ellsbury got hurt, but he was definitely the fourth outfielder.
I’d like to see Carter pushed to the bench, somehow. This requires DH Matt Holliday to play first base more often, but given Carter’s awful defensive skills, that’s no big deal.
Carter took the collar Thursday and is down to .179/.282/.330. He posted a 113 OPS-plus last year (league average is 100); Hicks is at 169 now. The occasional homer Carter hits probably isn’t worth it.
Carter does have a better career resume, but if I’m the Yankees, I’m not focusing on that. Hicks is three years younger, has a higher upside, offers defensive value, and has a pedigree worth chasing (former first round pick). Why not let all four New York outfielders play most of the time, using the DH as a rotating spot for a partial day off? The lineup would be just fine without Carter’s four home runs, 46 strikeouts, and .179 average.
Sometimes these things play themselves out. Maybe someone else in the lineup will slump or get hurt. And with the Yanks in first place, it’s not like they have to do anything drastic. But I’d hate to see a breakout story like Hicks get blocked (albeit indirectly; they don’t play the same position) by a lesser player. Heck, you can argue Ellsbury is a lesser player now, too.
In the meantime, if you own Hicks, be patient, even after Ellsbury returns (we don’t have a timetable yet, but it could be this weekend). Allow some time for things to shake out. It’s hard to keep talent out of the lineup.
• Melky Cabrera went hitless in his last start, and he’s sitting on some ordinary seasonal numbers: .263/.313/.387. But it looks like the Melk Man’s bat has started to wake up. He’s ripped four home runs and slashed .347/.407/.592 over the last two weeks, and for the year he has 15 walks against 24 strikeouts. Always a craftsman.
This is still a professional hitter with something to give, even on the eve of his 33rd birthday (August, you still have shopping time). Cabrera is free to add in over 56 percent of Yahoo leagues.