Exit Interview 2019: Michael Wacha

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: Michael Wacha

Season stats: 6-7, 4.76 ERA, 29 G, 126.2 IP, 143 H, 26 HR, 55 BB, 104 K, 5.61 FIP, 1.563 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 0.2 bWAR

Statcast: 7.8% barrel %, 87.6 exit velocity, 35.8% hard hit %, .354 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 8

Overall grade: C

Positives: From August 15 until the end of the year, made nine starts with a 2.89 ERA….threw six scoreless innings against the Marlins in June….lefties had a .259 average against him….allowed a .797 OPS in the second half….posted a 2.84 ERA in June and a 2.70 ERA in September….did the best with 3-5 runs of support, allowing a .232/.342/.399 line then….fourth-place batters hit .211 against him….if batters swung at the first pitch, they put up a .762 OPS….hitters wound up with a .190/.193/.303 line when he was ahead in the count….batters had a .730 OPS when leading off an inning….they hit .245 with two outs and runners in scoring position….if he could make it to the third time around as a starter, limited batters to a .727 OPS then….had a 2.72 ERA on five days’ rest….had a 1.29 ERA in four starts against the Brewers.

Negatives: Gave up five or more runs six times during the season….in his first relief outing, gave up six runs in one inning to the Phillies….righties put up a .309 average against him….had a 5.30 ERA on the road and 16 of the homers he allowed came there….allowed a .910 OPS in the first half, when he had a 5.54 ERA….batters had a .348/.434/.652 line in May….also gave up plus-.300 averages in July and September….had an 8.86 ERA in May….allowed a 1.026 OPS as a reliever….his reliever ERA was 5.68….allowed a .307 average and had a 5.40 ERA when he received two or fewer runs of support….second-place hitters had a 1.304 OPS in part because he walked 13 while striking out just nine….batters slashed .378/.387/.703 on the first pitch….gave up a 1.076 OPS when the batter was ahead in the count….gave up two home runs to opposing pitchers….allowed a .301 average with two outs in an inning….had a 7.12 ERA and a 1.051 OPS against in the first inning….along with that, batters had a 1.016 OPS on the first 25 pitches….on regular four days’ rest, his ERA was 6.21….had a 5.00 ERA against the Cubs.

Overview: Before the season started, I noted that the Cardinals had never committed to Wacha, even though they had opportunities.  Given what we saw this year, that’s a good thing.  If Wacha was under contract for any longer, it would be a hard thing to stomach.  I’m a big Wacha fan but I remember as he came up the idea was that he had a very high floor but would likely reach his ceiling quickly.  While his career has been compromised and derailed with injuries, especially that stress fracture in his shoulder, it’s hard to know if he could have ever lived up to 2013 or if that was always going to be a real high point of his career.

As for this year, it was nice to see him bob and weave down the stretch to give the team some good innings, in part because Mike Shildt wasn’t afraid to pull him at the first sign of danger or if there was a great pinch-hitting opportunity.  Wacha was left off the postseason roster because he left his last start after less than two innings due to a shoulder injury, though he’d have been a bit of a long shot to make it anyway.  Sadly, given his contract situation, that meant that the last sight of Wacha in a Cardinal uniform was him walking off with a trainer, a rough ending to a very interesting and at times exciting career wearing the birds on the bat.

Outlook: A rough season.  Another shoulder injury.  The cold free agent market.  This is not a recipe for a great big contract for Wacha, unfortunately.  Someone will give him a shot, see if he’s healthy and can be successful.  It’ll probably be a team like the Twins or the Royals or someone that can try to rehab him and flip him at the deadline for value.  Wherever he goes, our best wishes for his success go with him.

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