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Cardinals vs. Nationals: Adam Wainwright almost as good as ever, despite record

Adam Wainwright had what looked like an off-year on his way back from elbow surgery, but he remains the St. Louis Cardinals' ace.

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals' starter in Sunday's NLDS opener against the Washington Nationals, appears to have had an off-year in 2012, his first season back from elbow surgery. Final record: 14-13. Final ERA: 3.94. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny even went with veteran Kyle Lohse, coming off an unlikely career year, for the winner-take-all NL Wild Card game.

Which is why it might be surprising to know that, according to at least one sabermetric measure, Adam Wainwright was better than Cy Young candidate and Nationals opposite number Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who's had a great season in his own right, has a FIP of 2.82, better than Wainwright's (3.10) and proof that his 21-win season wasn't a BAbip-driven fluke. (FIP, or fielding-independent pitching, measures the things a pitcher has control over—strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed—and formats the result to look like ERA.)

But his xFIP—a cousin of FIP, which tries to adjust for highly variable home run rate—was 3.38, narrowly behind Wainwright's 3.23, suggesting that Gonzalez's super-low home run rate (just 0.4 per nine innings) isn't entirely sustainable.

In 2012, Adam Wainwright may not have gotten the results he did back when he was a constant Cy Young bridesmaid—and he might not again, since he was cheating FIP and xFIP himself in those years. But under all the cruft it was a vintage Adam Wainwright season, and he's a match for almost anybody the Cardinals will meet in the postseason.