Exit Interview: Adam Wainwright

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Adam Wainwright

Season stats: 20-9, 2.38 ERA, 32 games, 227 IP, 184 H, 50 BB, 179 K, 1.031 WHIP, 154 ERA+

Hero/Goat: Hero 12, Goat 5

Overall grade: A

Positives: It was another year like we’ve come to expect from Uncle Charlie, with another top-three finish in the Cy Young voting….won 20 games for the second time in his career….tied for the league lead in shutouts with three….was extra tough on righties, limiting them to a .542 OPS….was almost untouchable away from Busch with a 1.76 ERA and 0.964 WHIP on the road….the league hit only .201 against him in the second half.

Negatives: From July 22 to September 2, posted a 4.82 ERA–which could have been worse as he allowed four unearned runs in that span….his dead-arm phase took his ERA from 1.83 to 2.69, effectively ending any chance he might have had of upending Clayton Kershaw for the year-end hardware….his postseason was spotty as well, giving up six runs in 4.1 innings in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Overview: Waino is Waino and that’s a wonderful thing to behold.  He may never actually win the Cy, being unfortunate enough to be an ace pitcher at the time of one of the most dominant pitching forces in history.  Still, every time Wainwright goes out there you expect to see great things and nine times out of ten, he delivers.  (That tenth time can be ugly, though–he had five starts in 2014 that he allowed more than five runs.)

Any criticism of Wainwright is really picking nits and 29 other teams would be chomping at the bit to have him.  That said, the “dead arm” phase that he went through this season was troubling.  He scuffled in the second half of 2013 and 2010 as well, leading one to think that maybe all those innings are starting to pile up on him.  The Cardinals have already said that they want to be creative in ways to save those bullets and relieve some of the stress on that right arm, which will be something that’s interesting to see, both how it is designed and if Matheny will implement it.

Wainwright’s the ace of this staff, no doubt about it, and it’s a great thing to watch him go out there every fifth day.  If he ever has a season where everything clicks from Opening Day, watch out.

Outlook: When the Cardinals open up the 2015 season in that cursed cathedral they call Wrigley Field, Adam Wainwright will take the mound in the bottom of the first to try to keep the Wrigley Walkers at bay.  (Winter is coming, folks.)  And every fifth day, Lord willing, he’ll take the ball and continue to show us why one day his number will likely be out on the outfield wall.

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