Exit Interview 2017: Adam Wainwright

For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong.  The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year.  Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter.  As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.

Player: Adam Wainwright

Season stats: 12-5, 5.11 ERA, 24 games, 123.1 IP, 140 H, 45 BB, 96 K, 1.500 WHIP, 4.29 FIP, 0.2 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 4, Goat 7

Overall grade: C

Positives: Had his best winning percentage since 2008….threw seven scoreless innings against the Cubs on May 14….had a 3.08 ERA at home and batters hit .246 against him at Busch….eight of his wins came under the Arch as well….had a 2.64 ERA in May….received six or more runs of support in 12 of his 23 starts….batters hit .238 when they were behind in the count….had a .638 OPS against in high leverage situations….had a 4.16 ERA on four days’ rest….FIP was significantly lower than ERA….limited the Cubs to a 1.83 ERA in three starts.

Negatives: Had a 7.36 ERA in his last three starts….underwent elbow surgery after the season….gave up nine runs twice….gave up five or more runs five times….had a 7.32 road ERA….in his five losses, batters had a 1.222 OPS….had a 5.24 ERA when two or less runs were scored for him….had a 7.76 ERA (but a 7-2 record) when six or more runs were scored for him….batters hit .308 on the first pitch….the first batter he faced in a game hit .381….had an .807 OPS against when nobody was out….batters had a .864 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position….had an 8.66 ERA in the fifth inning….batters hit .326 on his first 25 pitches….had a 16.20 ERA in two starts against the Reds.

Overview: Let’s preface this, as most people do when they talk about the current state of Adam Wainwright’s career, with the fact that I’m a very, very big fan of #50.  He’s been a model Cardinal, he’s got an engaging personality, he comes off as a goofball, and he’s had a ton of success.  In a few years, he’s going to get a red jacket and reside next to his good friend Chris Carpenter and his longtime catcher Yadier Molina in the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  Wainwright’s earned a lot of rope and a lot of freedom in figuring out what’s next.

The problem is he’s used up a lot of that rope over the last couple of years.  ERA may not be everything, but when you follow a 4.62 with a 5.11, especially at 35 and especially when you are found late season throwing 75 mph fastballs, there are going to be questions asked and faith shaken.  Wainwright, as is his nature to put the best possible spin on everything, says the elbow surgery went great and he feels better than he has in a long time.  Which well may be true, but until we see some real results, I don’t think anyone is going to really buy it.  I know Waino thinks he’s only one tweak, one fix away from being back to what we expect from him, but that just hasn’t been the case in a while and it’s harder and harder to believe that it will be that way going forward.

Outlook: Wainwright is going into the last year of his contract.  It’s basically impossible to see him in another uniform, but he’s going to have to pitch better than we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons to get much of a discussion about an extension to keep him in Cardinal red.  If he has another 5-plus ERA this season, you wonder if he wouldn’t see the writing on the wall and retire.  That said, if he does have a season that makes him a credible #4 in the rotation, adding a year to his contract wouldn’t be the worst thing.

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