One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Adam Wainwright
Season stats: 11-12, 3.71 ERA, 32 G, 32 GS, 191.2 IP, 192 H, 16 HR, 54 BB, 143 K, 3.66 FIP, 1.283 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 1.8 bWAR, 2.8 fWAR
Statcast: .328 xwOBA, 6.5 barrel %, 87.8 exit velocity, 36.6 hard hit %, 17.8 K %, 6.7 BB %
Best Statcast category: Curve Spin (86th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Whiff % (1st percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 4, Goat 11
Positives: Put up positive WAR (no matter the site) as a 40 year old pitcher, not something everyone can say….stayed durable, only missing a start due to a stint on the COVID IL due to exposure….set the all time battery record with Yadier Molina….had seven starts where he allowed no runs and five of those went seven innings….had two complete games….was equally effective against righties and lefties….had a 3.00 ERA in the first half….went 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in May….had a 1.29 ERA in his 11 wins….leadoff batters had a .560 OPS against him….if they took the first pitch, hitters had a .655 OPS….allowed a .549 OPS when ahead in the count….the first batter he faced had a .586 OPS….when he saw a batter four times in a game, they went 1-14 with a walk….had a 2.96 ERA on four days’ rest….went 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA against the Cubs….threw seven scoreless innings in his start with Ivan Herrera and had a slightly better ERA with Andrew Knizner than Molina….the curveball still works as he had a 22.3% whiff rate with it.
Negatives: Allowed six runs twice and seven runs once….had five starts that lasted less than five innings….had a 4.73 ERA away from Busch….had a 4.69 ERA in the second half….had a terrible September, posting a 7.22 ERA and allowing an .869 OPS against….finished the year with an under .500 record for the first time in a full season and only the second time overall….had his best ERA (2.34) when he got six or more runs of support….had a 4.67 ERA when he got two or less runs of support….four of his homers allowed came from seventh place hitters, the most of any spot in the lineup….batters had a .927 OPS on the first pitch….batters hit .299 with two outs in an inning….they hit .293 with a .796 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position….allowed a .306/.353/.426 line in high leverage situations….had a 4.50 ERA in the first inning….had a 6.49 ERA with six or more days of rest….was 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA against the Brewers….had a 5.03 ERA in day games….his strikeout percentage was the lowest it has been since 2017….gave up more solid contact than any time in the Statcast era (since 2015)….did not pitch in the postseason.
Overview: The season of Wainwright is really skewed by the last few starts, though maybe it shouldn’t be. At the end of August, Wainwright had a 3.09 ERA but a 3.54 FIP. Four very rough weeks later, he ended with a 3.71 ERA but a 3.66 FIP. Still, when you are regularly giving up four or more runs in a start for weeks at a time, people are going to not necessarily remember the good times. There were plenty of good times, though, especially as he and Molina chased after the record. For much of the season, Wainwright looked like he had pushed back Father Time. His explanation after the season, about how a comebacker in the game against the Braves at the end of August wound up changing his stride and mechanics, was a fascinating read and you hope those adjustments are truly all it will take for him to regain the form he had the last couple of seasons. If nothing else, Wainwright will go into 2023 with a chip on his shoulder because he wasn’t able to pitch in the postseason and he knows that was his fault, not Oli Marmol’s.
Outlook: Wainwright has announced that this coming season will be his last, but the hoopla should be a little more muted than it was around Molina and Albert Pujols in 2022. He’ll probably still get some gifts and the like but it’s different when a guy is only out there every five days. (Starting the year off pitching for Team USA might kickstart the buzz a little bit, though.) If he can make all those adjustments, he’ll probably be a serviceable pitcher even in his Age 41 season. However, he’s dancing on the razor’s edge. There are going to be nights where his command is just off (or he’s not getting the calls) and he’ll not have any way to compensate. There will be some ugly games but there will also likely be some games that remind us just how great Wainwright is and why he’s probably the second-best pitcher in Cardinal history. Hopefully he can go out strong and not wonder if he should have walked off the stage with the other legends instead.