After the 3-1 loss today, in which Adam Wainwright took the loss and saw his record drop to 15-9 and his ERA rise to…holy smokes..2.59, the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation admitted he is reeling from “a dead arm”. This strikes many starting pitchers in August. They reach 160-180 inning and all those compete moments start to stack up. Adam Wainwright has pitched over 188 innings this year and the cost of being a horse for a rotation is going through a month of tough battles. Unless your name is Clayton Kershaw, the dead arm issue will find nearly every veteran pitcher. Waino is battling through it. It is not the forearm. It isn’t the shoulder or the elbow. It’s the whole damn limb. It is a phase that could be coming to an end right as Yadier Molina returns to the team. Talk about swell timing.
Why the dead arm? Consider this. Adam Wainwright threw 276 innings last year. Add those to the 188 and you can see how dead arm comes into play. This isn’t your typical injury. There is no disabled list stint. Waino isn’t going to sit down because his arm feels a little less than able. He has to go out there and battle more without his best pitching. Today, he gave up an early 2 run home run and a sacrifice fly before shutting things down. He allowed 3 runs in 6 innings. In the modern age, that is called a quality start. The problems started right after the All Star break, when Waino missed a start with the forearm injury. He came back and beat the Cubs on July 27th, allowing zero earned runs in seven innings.
His only truly bad start post All Star Break came against the Brewers on August 1st, where he seven earned runs in only 5.1 innings. Wainwright beat Boston at home and pitched well against Miami, allowing 5 earned runs in 14 innings. He pitched seven innings against the Padres, allowed 3 earned runs and got the win before struggling against Philadelphia over the weekend.
I won’t wear you down with sabermetrics here but post break Waino is rougher around the edges. The dead arm aspect applies because of his inability to repeat his motion to the plate and his accuracy with his pitches. Before July 22nd, Waino had walked 3 batters or more a total of 3 times(20 starts). Since July 22nd, he has done it four times(8 starts). Waino isn’t getting bombed out there. He has still allowed only 7 home runs all year. He doesn’t get hit hard left and right. He still gets better as the game goes on, as fans saw today.
The dead arm simply means Waino hit a brick wall in August and it continued towards the end of the month. It doesn’t mean there is no end in sight or something is seriously wrong. He isn’t horrible but he also isn’t dominant. How much has Yadi being absent played a part? I would attribute his presence more to the entire rotation than one pitcher. Waino could use Yadi behind the plate but as my fellow Cards scribe Joe Schwarz (@stlCupofJoe) pointed out, when he is on, the man could throw to a lawn chair. Waino isn’t himself but one has to think the dead arm is clearing up and September will show a different picture.
I trust him to let the team know if he is hurting. Waino is tough but he isn’t stupid and won’t endanger the team. He has battled through dead arm like any other pitcher would have. He has done it while not losing the effectiveness on all his pitches and not letting teams blow the Cards out. All in all, his ERA was 5.26 for the month of August after two straight months of sub 2.00. He got lit up twice in June by the Cubs and Giants but other than that Waino has been dominant up until August 1st.
There is light around the corner. Michael Wacha pitches in Double A on Sunday in his first mound action since June 17th. Molina could be behind home plate for Waino’s next start. Best of all, as Waino hinted at before today’s start, August is officially over for the Cards ace. During Waino’s struggles, Lance Lynn has stepped forward and turned into something else. His emergence has helped offset Waino’s struggles. Wacha’s return will only help as well.
If this sounds like a homer friendly column, it is a way of staying positive and turning away from skepticism. Also keep in mind I am going off what I see and what I know. The reason people get shaky and scared is because of what they are used to with Wainwright. He is trusted to be the Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter of his era. The man expected to produce something great. A small faction of Cards addicts still look for the no hitter and a larger group hate the fact that his August plunge has taken him out of Cy Young candidacy again. It was two starts around this time of last year that hurt his Cy chances. This time, it was around 6-8 starts that made him slip. Keep this in mind. Wainwright held the team in contention for several weeks. He allowed 2 earned runs or less in 18 of his starts this year. As I noted earlier, he is a horse who needed a period to be average.
Along with Waino, we can all hope for a stronger September. A few more swings and some run support from his lineup when he is on the mound could also help.
Adam Wainwright’s arm may not be dead but it has simply been human lately. While it’s hard to digest and go to bed on, Wainwright’s struggles are a common part of being “The Man”.
Keep your head up, Cardinal Nation. This season will be interesting until the final day of this season. The 2014 team promises its fanbase that every single game.
Thanks for reading,