Exit Interview: Adam Wainwright

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Double Birds Podcast.  Chase and El Maquino, joined occasionally by guests, cast a sometimes critical but always informed eye on all things Cardinals.  Find them on iTunes or check out Chase’s blog.

Player: Adam Wainwright

Season stats: 13-9, 4.62 ERA, 33 games, 198.2 IP, 220 H, 59 BB, 161 K, 1.404 WHIP, 3.93 FIP, 1.0 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 10, Goat 9

Overall grade: D

Positives: Threw his only shutout of the year during 2006 reunion weekend….batters had a .687 OPS at home….he also had a 3.20 ERA under the Arch….had his best month in July (3-0, 1.77 ERA)….won his last start, which was a must-win game when he started it, on the final day of the season….batters had a .302 OPS on an 0-2 count….they hit .191 in any two strike count….opponent’s OPS with runners in scoring position was .679….limited batters to a .225 BA when there were two outs and RISP….batters hit .260 in low-leverage situations….eventually could find a groove, with batters having a .257/.303/.381 line between pitches 51 and 75.

Negatives: Led the league in hits allowed….lefties hit .306 against him….had a 6.18 ERA on the road, as batters had an .888 OPS when he was wearing the grays….allowed a .299 average in the second half….had a 6.10 ERA in August and a 5.05 mark in September….had a 7.50 ERA in his losses….had 13 games where he got six or more runs of support and, though he went 7-2, had a 6.29 ERA….batters hitting first nicked him for a .316 average….batters had an .837 OPS when they swung at the first pitch….when they hit the first pitch, .434/.440/.651….batters leading off an inning had a .358 average….in 41 late and close PA, the line was .364/.462/.515….batters had a .325 average and .793 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 4.68 ERA in the first three innings….had a 7.98 ERA against the Cubs.

Overview: Before the season started, Waino called into a SiriusXM radio station that had just done a fantasy draft, promising that his low selection would prove to be a bargain.  Later in the year, Wainwright indicated that he was finally getting his legs back after his Achilles injury and had made some adjustments, so now things would be much better.  Time after time, Uncle Charlie kept saying he was going to turn the corner, that he was going to step back to his normal levels.  Time after time, though, things didn’t actually get any better.  Only 12 times did Wainwright allow two runs or less in an outing.  He had a seven game stretch from mid-June to late July where he had a 2.27 ERA, which raised a lot of hopes, but in his next five starts the ERA was 7.71.  While he ended the season on a good note, allowing just two runs in six innings in his final start, but the three games before that, against the Giants, Rockies, and Reds, his ERA was over 7.

You would like to think that maybe some bad starts overshadowed things, that the ugly tarnished a better than you’d think season.  That just isn’t the case.  Going through the splits, going through the game log, there’s not much to grab on to.  Even folks with Cardinal red glasses have to acknowledge that Wainwright was a disappointment through and through, especially when the playoff race was so close.  Even a Wainwright that was halfway between a typical Waino and this version would have probably had the Cards in October.

Outlook: So what do we think about Wainwright for 2017?  There’s no doubt that big #50 is going to work hard this offseason, that he’s going to promise a return to his former levels, that you shouldn’t underestimate him.  However, he turned 35 close to the end of the season, which would seem to mean that his prime is past.  (This is hard for some of us, who still remember rookie Wainwright and it doesn’t seem possible he could be on the down side of his career.)  If he’d had a stronger end of the season, you could argue better that maybe a bounce back was coming, but I don’t think that there’s enough there to really latch on to that.

It would seem that, far from being the Cardinal ace, Wainwright could be the #3 starter by mid-season next year, behind Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes.  In fact, if the Cardinals did something crazy like acquired Chris Sale without losing Reyes, Wainwright could be the #4 guy.  Most likely a very good #4, but still, nobody would have thought that possible this time last year.

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