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Adam Wainwright's Shutout: Score One For Metrics

People like to point out, in the post-Moneyball-the-movie universe, things that sabermetrics ostensibly can't measure, or isn't measuring. One of the things metrics couldn't "see" about the St. Louis Cardinals, going into Tuesday's shutout, was Adam Wainwright's rough recovery from elbow surgery. I'm as much to blame as anybody here—I was convinced it existed, because it made intuitive sense, and I invented dumb reasons for his strikeout-to-walk ratio to be as good as it was anyway. (Theory one: He's being "too fine" with his new arm, leading to a minor case of Yusmeiro Petit's Disease.)


If you believe Voros McCracken's theories about defense-independent pitching, which are now 13 years old, Wainwright was already having a perfectly fine year in 2012, aside from a surprising leap in home run rate. His FIP—that's fielding-independent pitching—was 4.38; his xFIP, which adjusts for spikes and troughs in home run rate, was 3.30, nearly identical to his 2009 mark. Post-shutout those numbers are 3.85 and 3.09.


Maybe Adam Wainwright got lucky here, and his problems are about to continue, and his defense and luck-independent numbers are misleading us in this moment. Or maybe this entire story could have been avoided if we trusted a relatively ancient branch of baseball analysis as much as we ought to.