Adam Wainwright currently has an ERA just under 6, which is very un-Wainwright like. Wainwright has a career ERA just above 3, and has had an ERA under 3 in 5 out of his last 6 seasons. He's been one of the very best pitchers in baseball for the last half decade. So what is going on?
Traditional peripherals may indicate some bad luck at first glance. Wainwright has a .337 BABIP, which is 44 points above his career BABIP of .293. He has a 3.99 FIP, which is almost 2 runs below his 5.92 ERA, and is around the NL average FIP of 3.96. Traditional thought may be, OK, Wainwright isn't actually pitching that badly, and is just having some bad luck, and things will even out eventually.
But with MLB's new statcast tracking system coming into play this year, new ways of measuring player performance are available. Specifically, launch angles are now an objective way to measure trajectories. Prior to statcast, trajectories were subjectively classified. Now, a tracking system objectively measures the exact launch angle a ball leaves the bat at.
Digging deeper into statcast, Wainwright's batted ball trajectories have been poor. Wainwright has allowed 55 batted balls hit with a launch angle between 10 and 25 degrees--line drives--which is the most that any pitcher has allowed in baseball this year. It accounts for roughly 30% of his total batted balls. MLB average is about 21%.
The league has a .631 BABIP on batted balls launched between those angles. So if Wainwright is allowing the most batted balls with launch angles best equipped to cut through a defense and turn into hits, is he really suffering from a lot of bad luck? I'm no expert, just a fantasy owner, but it sounds to me like the answer is no.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Wainwright will continue to give up line drives at that rate the rest of the way, and with his prior excellence, there's a chance he figures things out and starts preventing runs at an above average level again. But just by looking at some of the data on his batted balls, it doesn't appear that he's been overly unlucky to this point in the season.
Some of Wainwright's other peripherals are also concerning. His strikeout rate has fallen to 13.5%, significantly below the MLB average strikeout rate of 21%. Wainwright's strikeout rate was 20% in his last full season in 2014, and his career strikeout rate is just above 20%. He is also almost 35 years old, and is coming off an achilles injury that caused him to miss most of last season.
Wainwright starts tonight against a strong Cubs offense that ranks third in MLB with a 111 wRC+ vs RHP and third with a .175 ISO vs RHP. He's priced at $7,500 on FanDuel's daily fantasy baseball outlet. With the way the Cubs hit righties, combined with Wainwright's struggles, a fantasy owner would be making a good decision to avoid Wainwright tonight on FanDuel, and look elsewhere.