After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season. They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post. Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. This year, of course, was anything but typical. So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative. There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable. As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!
Player: Adam Wainwright
Season stats: 5-3, 3.15 ERA, 10 G, 65.2 IP, 54 H, 9 HR, 15 BB, 54 K, 4.10 FIP, 1.051 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 0.5 bWAR
Postseason stats: 5.40 ERA, 6 H, 2 BB. 3 K, 2.400 WHIP
Statcast: 6.3% barrel %, 87.3 exit velocity, 36.6% hard hit %, .314 xwOBA
Best Statcast category: Curve Spin (81st percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (4th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 1
On COVID IL: No
Overview: There was a bit of trepidation about bringing Wainwright back for another season. He had beaten the odds and had a very successful season in 2019. Could he do that again in 2020? Would he end on a sour final note instead of a triumphant crescendo? Those fears quickly evaporated as Wainwright again turned in a very solid season worthy of the “crafty veteran” stereotype. He threw his curve more than anything else (38% of the time), leaning into his strengths as much as possible. There’s no doubt that his bond with Yadier Molina helps a lot–he threw just one game to a different catcher (Andrew Knizner, while Molina was on the COVID-IL) and Molina knows how to get the best out of Wainwright. Wainwright became a rock in the rotation, perhaps not the flashiest or the most dominant part but a consistent hurler who did what he could for the team. He gave up four runs just twice and one of those outings two of the runs were unearned.
Plus there was his birthday game. After the bullpen had been worn down by the Cleveland Indians, Wainwright texted his manager and his teammates, telling them that he would take up the slack. Going into the game planning to pitch until his arm couldn’t go any further, he wound up covering all nine innings, allowing only two runs and getting enough support to bring home a much needed win for the team. That kind of leadership, that kind of inspiration, is tough to find in just anyone.
All that said, it still was a little surprising to see Wainwright get Game 2 of the Wild Card Series over Jack Flaherty. It’s hard to know if that would have changed anything in the series–the bullpen behind Wainwright was more of the issue, though if Flaherty had gotten the sort of support Wainwright did in that game, there’s a good chance he’d have gone deeper and held the line a little longer–but it felt like Mike Shildt was channeling his inner Johnny Keane and saying he had a commitment to Wainwright’s heart. It’s a testament to Wainwright’s season that the choice wasn’t completely indefensible.
Also, Wainwright continued being the amazing person that we have seen him be over the years in St. Louis. He was one of the first players to step up and contribute toward helping minor leaguers during the pandemic shutdown. He and his Big League Impact helped children that were going hungry due to various issues, most notably the pandemic. He was also the club’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the fifth time since he’s been a Cardinal.
Outlook: You may have heard but Wainwright is yet again a free agent. Retirement doesn’t seem to be in the plans, though it feels like it’s a year-by-year process for Waino now. There’s talk that he and Molina are a package deal, though I think that may be more hope than firm plan. The Braves have expressed interest and I would have to think that if there’s a team that can pull Wainwright from under the Arch, it’d be his hometown team that’s a serious postseason contender. I think it’s more likely than not that Wainwright puts on the birds on the bat for another year, but for the first time there’s a real risk he’ll be in another uniform.