February 28, 2011
The Other Value Lost in Wainwright
Adam Wainwright has successfully undergone Tommy John surgery and the speculation about who will take his rotation slot has passed (for the most part). The Cardinals can now focus on answering the important question at hand: How will they live without Wainwright’s bat?
Finding a true replacement for Wainwright’s hitting will prove difficult, albeit not as hard as finding someone who can pitch like him. Last year alone, Wainwright hit .167/.231/.226, miserable by his and position player standards (his career line is .223/.254/.332). Fortunately, for Wainwright’s pride, he is a pitcher, and pitchers hit a collective .140/.174/.172 in 2010, leaving the recovering ace as a relatively good hitter.
To figure out just how many runs the Cardinals could lose out, I turned to Colin Wyers. Using Wainwright’s career TAv and the league-average hitting pitcher since 2007, Wyers arrived at a figure of six runs lost over 80 plate appearances. The true number is likely to be closer to three or four runs because of regression towards the mean; however, there is no guarantee the Cardinals will field a league-average hitting pitcher. Most of their options lack in big league batting experience with the exception of Ian Snell.
For Snell, hitting at a league-average rate would be an upgrade, as his career slash line is .094/.126/.104 in more than 230 career plate appearances. In fact, Snell has the eighth lowest OPS amongst pitchers with at least 150 plate appearance since 2007 (meanwhile Wainwright has the fifth highest). Snell is not guaranteed to replace Wainwright, but if whoever does hits like Snell, then the Cardinals could stand to lose up to a full win from an overlooked aspect of Wainwright’s departure.