UCB Roundtable: Adam Wainwright Edition

I’ve been completely unmotivated to post but as the players start making their way back to Jupiter, hopefully I can also shake off my winter doldrums and get back to bringing you the mediocre content you expect from this space.  I hope to get back in the saddle next week, but until then, fill the time by checking out the transcript of the last UCB roundtable question asked back in October.  It’s been sitting in my email to post since then but, well, a lazy slug am I.  I don’t think there’s been much happen to make these out of date (save knowing the contract details) so enjoy!

C70: Adam Wainwright is returning next season. It’s an incentive-based deal, as we all know, and we’ll find out after the World Series a little more about the contract. (If you’d like to take some guesses about at least the base salary in your answer, go right ahead!) My real question, though, is what do you expect to see from the legendary Cardinal hurler next season? How many starts does he make, if any? What’s going to be his major role on the team? Will he make it through the whole season? Will he do well enough that another similar contract is signed next season? All things Waino are open here, so have at it!

Bill (I70 Baseball): I would personally like to see his contract details be one that is structured similar to Ozzie’s final contract – hit “x” on the incentives and the contract rolls over to the next year, miss “x” on the incentives and the contract becomes a 10-year organization contract upon retirement.

Very seldom is there an opportunity for players like Molina and Wainwright to truly be a “one team” guy (yes, I’m aware Wainwright wasn’t drafted here). I’d really like to see the organization acknowledge the possibility of that fact for a player like Wainwright. He’s intangibles are worth as much, if not more, than his presence on the field.

As for what to expect from him – I don’t think starting is in the future for Wainwright much longer. He could potentially turn into a John Smoltz like player with some focus on setup or closer work, if his body can handle multiple days in a row.

Mark (RetroSimba): Here are the ERAs for Adam Wainwright in each of his last 3 seasons: 4.62 in 2016, 5.11 in 2017 and 4.46 in 2018. There is nothing to indicate that pattern will change. I don’t think he has much more to offer in 2019.

Tara (Birds on the Black): There is no part of me that feels confident making any specific predictions about Waino, for two reasons:

1. I’m not sure when the last time we saw a truly healthy Wainwright was (before the Achilles injury???)
2. He’s probably always going to think he’s one bullpen session away from “figuring it out,” and he’s built up enough good will/confidence with the coaching staff (and his teammates, for that matter) that everyone is going to believe him… especially when he inevitably goes out and has 3-4 good appearances in a row.

That said, it seems incredibly unlikely that he’ll be a starter, consistently in the rotation, all year in 2019. I anticipate he’ll start there in the spring, and have every chance to claim one of the five spots. But, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he continues to be one of the best five all season.

If he’s able to pitch 2-3 clean innings or a regular basis, though, it allows for some interesting options in relief. Or, as was mentioned with Reyes, at the start of the game (should Shildt and Co ever venture into that level of creativity).

All that said, I still believe what Waino brings to a clubhouse full of young, unpolished, developing pitching talent is easily worth the one-year deal.

Dennis (Pitchers Hit Eighth): I’ll be shocked if he actually throws over 70 innings which is basically the high end for a reliever. That would probably take several starts and then some bullpen time with a month or so missed due to some predictably unfortunate injury.

If he can fill in some gaps as a league average pitcher, then his real value is probably going to come from simply saving others from throwing those innings.

I haze zero faith that the team will get really creative, but I love the idea of them at least experimenting with using what they have, and what they have is a lot of starters. Why not piggyback Reyes and Wainwright? Reyes goes out for 1-4, and Wainwright is responsible for 5-8.

It would be unlikely that either would have to go through a lineup a third time, and the innings assignment could minimize pitch count concerns. Imagine seeing Reyes for two PAs and then switching gears to Wainwright.

Sure, one or both could blow up, but I think combined they could be as productive as most fifth starters but with a slightly reduced risk of a bullpen game. It’s a weird way of going about it, but 4 innings of Wainwright every 5th game probably isn’t significantly worse than what you would expect from the reliever spot he’d be taking.

I’m totally being unreasonable optimistic, so I’m going to blame it on the WS that I’m not bothering to watch, because it’s like choosing which kidney I want to have stolen in Mexico.

Adam (Bird Law): So here’s the thing that I get hung up on with Wainwright, those last four starts of the season were legit. He was averaging over 90 mph on his fastball again, very close to his career norms. Plus, he was averaging over 75 mph on his curveball again. That’s the first time he’s done that since April of 2016. Statcast unfortunately has data back to 2015 so I was able to get his curveball spin rate through his prime but in September his curveball was about 100 rpm’s above what he averaged before that in the statcast era. So from 2015-September of 2018. It seems pretty clear to me that there’s still an plenty effective pitcher in there. Which seems crazy for me to say because I was one of those that thought he was completely done after that start in San Diego earlier this year and I was annoyed that they were trying to bring him back at the end of the year.

The only real question mark to me, is health. That’s obviously a huge question mark. If he can handle it, I’d expect them to give him the fifth spot in the rotation and see how long he can hold up. I don’t hate this idea as long as he’s not expected to go deep into games with any sort of regularity. Having a rotation start with Martinez, Flaherty, and Mikolas should provide the luxury of having a pretty rested bullpen when your 4th and 5th turns through the rotation are pitching. I think this is the route they’ll go, which I’m mostly fine with.

I think the most ideal role for him, though, would be a 2-4 inning type of role. Whether that’s as a starter or reliever doesn’t really matter to me. He could serve as an opener and go through the opposing lineup once to give way to someone piggybacking him(one of the 100 SP candidates that they have) or serve in the piggyback role himself. I would hope that they view these short stints as the best way of keeping him healthy and effective.

As for the author of this post, I’m never going be unbiased when it comes to Wainwright.  I believe that he’ll start the season in the rotation and I could easily believe a solid first month or so.  Eventually, however, I do think he’s going to cede his spot either to Alex Reyes or another one of those young arms and spend some time in the long relief section of the bullpen.  My hope is that we’ll get to see another October moment for Wainwright this season and, who knows, maybe he can go strong enough to give us the possibility of another year.  I don’t think that’s likely though and we should prepare ourselves that 2019 is the last time we’ll see Uncle Charlie.

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Last updated: 10/01/2018

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