As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
Player: Adam Wainwright
Season stats: 17-7, 3.05 ERA, 32 G, 206.1 IP, 168 H, 21 HR, 50 BB, 174 K, 3.66 FIP, 1.057 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 3.5 bWAR, 3.8 fWAR
Statcast: .301 xwOBA, 6.2 barrel %, 88.2 exit velocity, 35.6 hard hit %, 21.0 K %, 6.0 BB %
Best Statcast category: Curve Spin (90th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (3rd percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 12, Goat 3
Positives: Continued to chase the battery mark of most starts with Yadier Molina, crossing over 300 together….had five starts where he didn’t allow any runs, including a complete game shutout of the Pirates on August 11….currently has a 26 inning scoreless streak against the Pirates….allowed two runs or fewer in 21 of his 32 starts….right-handers had a .596 OPS against him….had a 2.74 ERA at Busch….was 10-2 with a 2.50 ERA in the second half of the season….in part due to three games against Pittsburgh, had a 1.43 ERA and a .185 batting average against in August….allowed a .538 OPS in games he won….had a 2.38 ERA in games where he got two or fewer runs of support….fifth place hitters hit .207 against him….surrendered a .456 OPS when he was ahead in the count….only gave up a hit to the leadoff batter in six of his 32 games and only one went for extra bases….gave up a .129/.211/.210 line when there were two outs….allowed a .596 OPS with runners in scoring position….had a .691 OPS in high leverage situations….had two no decisions but a 0.60 ERA against the Cubs….had a 0.30 ERA in four games and 30 innings against the Pirates, who hit .127/.144/.176 against him….received Cy Young votes, making him the pitcher with the most ever without actually winning the award….pitched 5.1 innings in the Wild Card game, allowing just one run….has dominated the off-season by having Thanksgiving with Yadi, dunking a fair clown, and feeding folks at the Ahmaud Arbery trial.
Negatives: Allowed six earned runs in his first start and had another six run outing in May….had a 3.58 ERA in the first half….had a .748 OPS against in April….posted a 5.90 ERA in the games he lost….cleanup hitters put up a .921 OPS against him….six of his home runs allowed came in high leverage situations….had a 5.97 ERA in the third inning….struggled when out of his rhythm, putting up a 6.04 ERA with six or more days off….the Reds hit .349 against him in two starts.
Overview: At the end of 2019, there was some questioning of whether Wainwright should come back. He’d won 14 games and had an ERA slightly over 4, which was a great achievement given where he’d come from. Waino came back for what turned out to be a crazy 2020 and was even better in the shortened season, again provoking some to ponder whether he should go out on top. Wainwright went into free agency instead and eventually returned to the Cardinals. Thank goodness that he did because, while we all appreciate Uncle Charlie, I don’t think anyone expected him to be the best and most reliable pitcher in 2021 when he was 39 years old for most of it. While he has little velocity left, Wainwright has become the poster boy for the difference between a pitcher and a thrower. In tandem with Molina, who by now can probably telepathically call games with Wainwright, he continued to disrupt timing, to get batters to hit his pitch, and to use the defense behind him. The curveball still is dangerous–26.8% whiff on that pitch and batters hit just .209 against it–and with that as the strong pole, everything else can work around it. Wainwright starts are a wonder to behold, even more so because he’s not throwing 99.
Outlook: Wainwright didn’t wait to hit the market this year, polling his family (and posting the video) to see if he should play another year. Once that was settled, John Mozeliak quickly signed him to a deal that was more lucrative than the two most recent ones. He and Yadi will try to break that record while hopefully getting one more deep playoff run before they ride off into the sunset. Expecting Waino to be this good again may be asking a lot but he’s delivered more often than he hasn’t. Even a bit of a step back, assuming that Jack Flaherty stays healthy, won’t be an issue for St. Louis.