Advanced stats from 2021 that matter for St. Louis Cardinals
By Matt Graves
Adam Wainwright’s curveball spin rate (2839 rpm)
Adam Wainwright continued to defy Father Time in 2021 with yet another great season at yet another year older. Pitching part of the year at the age of 40, Wainwright has joined the company of few pitchers who still find success in the MLB in their fourth decade of life.
Coming into 2022, Wainwright and Yadier Molina are both likely on the final ride of their long and storied careers. While there’s nothing that can happen to tarnish their legacy in St. Louis, everyone wants them to go out with a bang rather than a whimper.
When looking at the key to Adam Wainwright’s success this late in his career, it comes from location, sequencing, using the defense, but also a healthy reliance on the curveball that has been his trademark for his whole career. As has been the case most of his career, Wainwright threw the curve more than any other pitch (33.8%) in 2021 and as far as looking towards 2022, there are no signs that the pitch is slowing down.
When you think about a pitch’s spin rate, it is one piece of the puzzle that describes what happens between the pitcher letting go of the ball and then the ball reaching home plate. Orientation, spin axis, and efficiency all matter in creating the movement of a pitch, but the spin rate is easiest to understand when it’s thought of like the horsepower of a car.
For Wainwright and his curve, the spin rate has only gotten better with age. Ranked in the 90th percentile in 2021, Waino’s curve actually had never averaged a higher spin rate (since tracking began in 2015) than the 2839 rpm fans saw in 2021. While changes to the ball and other things have impacted the horizontal and vertical break of Waino’s curve, this career-best spin rate fueled another great year from the pitch and probably means he’ll be able to keep spinning it well moving forward.