Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Adam Wainwright
Season stats: 14-10, 4.19 ERA, 31 G, 171.2 IP, 181 H, 22 HR, 64 BB, 153 K, 4.36 FIP, 1.427 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 1.9 bWAR
Statcast: 6.9% barrel %, 88.1 exit velocity, 39.2% hard hit %, .327 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 9, Goat 6
Overall grade: B
Positives: Right-handers had a .699 OPS against him….was very strong at home, posting a 2.56 ERA and a .253 BAA….had a 4.07 ERA in the second half, even though the BAA was higher then….had a 2.96 ERA in June and a 2.97 ERA in September….had a 2.15 ERA in the 14 games he won….allowed a .729 OPS when he got two or fewer runs of support….the middle of the order (3-6) slashed .268/.335/.457….if batters took the first pitch they hit .255….kept hitters to a .559 OPS if he was ahead in the count….the first batter of the game hit .192 against him….only four of his home runs allowed came with two outs….16 of his 22 homers allowed were solo shots….batters had a .776 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 2.03 ERA in the second inning….the first time through the lineup, he limited hitters to a .704 OPS….had a 3.48 ERA against the Brewers….did not win a game in the postseason but allowed no runs in 7.2 innings in the NLDS and three in nine innings, including his first relief appearance of the season, against the Nationals.
Negatives: Struggled in his last two regular season starts, posting a 10.61 ERA….lefties had six more home runs than righties in 60 fewer plate appearances….lefties also hit .288 and had a .884 OPS against him….had a 6.22 ERA on the road….hitters got him for a .299 BAA when not at Busch….had a 4.85 ERA in July and a 4.73 ERA in August….had a 6.18 ERA when getting six or more runs of support….batters hit .314 when he got that level of support as well….seven of the homers he allowed came from the first two spots in the lineup….eighth place hitters had a 1.064 OPS against him….batters crushed his first pitch to the tune of .439/.452/.695….eight of the home runs he gave up came on the first pitch or on a 1-0 count….allowed a .879 OPS with one out in a frame….batters had a .994 OPS in late and close situations….he allowed nine of his home runs in tie games….hitters slashed .295/.354/.504 in low leverage situations….had a 4.63 ERA in the middle innings….batters hit .294 the second time around….between pitches 51 and 75, he allowed a .315/.358/.500 line….had a 5.15 ERA on four days’ rest….had a 5.27 ERA against Chicago and Cubs hitters had an .879 OPS against him….hitters had an .851 OPS against him in night games.
Overview: When Wainwright signed his incentive-laden contract last winter, many of us expected that given the bullpen possibilities in the deal, Wainwright would start in the rotation and then, either due to ineffectiveness or being pushed by someone such as Alex Reyes, would wind up in relief for his last Cardinal appearances. Wainwright hadn’t really been even a league average pitcher since getting hurt in 2015 and it seemed unlikely that a guy going into the season where he’d turn 38 was really going to be able to find some hidden reserves. In truth, Wainwright didn’t get back to his old ways, but fully embraced the crafty veteran role. He had the curve working well and threw it a lot plus paired it up with his fastball better than before (look in that link for a link to an The Athletic story from our old friend Joe Schwarz). It wasn’t the same ace hurler that we’d seen before. To paraphrase the beginning of Arrow, to succeed in 2019, Wainwright had to become someone else, he had to become something else.
It wasn’t always effective. The home/road splits were remarkable and while it doesn’t surprise me that Uncle Charlie could be more focused and more on his game in front of the sea of red, the flip side of that was always holding your breath if he had to start somewhere else. Six times he allowed five or more runs. There were times where Mike Shildt stayed with him a little too long, but for the most part the manager seemed to have a good touch with him. All that plus a challenge from Jack Flaherty mid-season made Wainwright’s 2019 a success and put him in line to determine his baseball future, which he did by signing a one year deal with more guarantees (but a similar top value) for 2020.
Outlook: There’s a risk that some of this was smoke and mirrors. There’s a risk that, with another year on his odometer, Wainwright won’t have the same stuff he had this season. There’s a risk that he won’t go out with a good postseason run or an overall successful season. There’s a risk that he won’t make it through 2020 at all. The home numbers could balloon. The batters could barrel his pitches more. Everything could go all sorts of sideways. However, we get more sights of Wainwright throwing to Yadier Molina. We don’t have to close the book and start his Cardinals Hall of Fame countdown just yet. We’ll miss him when he’s gone so anything that stretches that out should appeal to the romantic in you.